Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

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Lemon Artichoke Risotto

The Incredible Essence of Mediterranean Flavor: Lemon Artichoke Risotto

There is nothing more Sephardic than rice.

When Tamar Rothenberg left her book “Cancer Diet For The Newly Diagnosed” in my front courtyard, my son Ariel brought it into the house with a raised eyebrow. “What is this?” he asked with a touch of worry in his voice. “Just a beautiful  recipe book,” I reassured him. 

The first time Rachel and I attended a Sharsheret event was a Pink Challah Bake at Kahal Joseph Congregation about three years ago. It was fun to bake challah with a large group of women. But hearing a gynecologist speak about ways that women can be proactive about their health was truly empowering. Even though we’d always been aware of Sharsheret, Rachel and I found out what this organization really does to raise awareness and offer support for those in our community suffering from breast and ovarian cancer. 

We met Jenna Fields, Sharsheret’s California Regional Director and we promised to get involved in this very worthy cause. 

COVID put everything on pause. But this year, Rachel and I have tried to make up for lost time. In February, I arranged for Jenna to come to Beth Jacob Congregation to speak at Just the Girls, a monthly event for Middle School girls. 

Just before Purim, the Shalhevet High School Parents Association hosted a mother and daughter Sharsheret Pink Hamantashen Bake. Part of the program was an informative talk by Tamar Rothenberg about the myths and facts of nutrition and women’s health. It was there that Tamar told me about her recently published book and promised to drop a copy at my home. 

In the introduction to her book, Tamar relates that receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer motivated her to become a registered dietitian/nutritionist specializing in oncology. She has made it her personal and professional mission to help cancer patients recover and rebuild. In her book, she has compiled the lifestyle and nutrition information that she wishes had been available to her when she began her own journey to recovery. 

While a cancer diagnosis is a scary, stressful thing, this book, with it’s beautifully photographed recipes and helpful tips, will empower the reader to take control and make dietary changes that enable “health, recovery and quality of life.” – Sharon

When Sharon and I were the featured cooks for the Pesach edition of the Sharsheret in the Kitchen Webinar Series, we knew that we couldn’t demonstrate any dishes with rice. But truly, there is nothing more Sephardic than rice. For my family, Friday night dinner isn’t complete without my red rice.

RISOTTO IS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF MEDITERRANEAN COOKING—THE FLAVORFUL, EFFORTLESS AND NUTRITIOUS COMBINATION OF GRAINS AND VEGETABLES.

When Sharon and I were looking through Tamar’s beautiful book, we instantly agreed that her Lemon-Artichoke Risotto was the perfect dish to feature for our readers. Risotto is a prime example of Mediterranean cooking — the flavorful, effortless and nutritious combination of grains and vegetables.

Tamar’s recipe is special because it’s creamy and delicious without using butter and cream, making it perfect for vegans and perfect as a side dish alongside meat and chicken (and fish). Her recipe features artichokes and sugar snap peas, parsley and mint. We went full spring mode and used artichokes, asparagus and leeks. But risotto lends itself to many flavor combinations—wild mushrooms and thyme, butternut squash and caramelized onions, fresh English peas and Parmesan. 

We hope you get creative with some Arborio rice and make your own perfect risotto. 

Buona salute! To your very good health! – Rachel

Lemon Artichoke Risotto

Based on: Cancer Diet for the Newly Diagnosed

4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup hot water with a big pinch of saffron
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,
divided
1 14oz can artichoke hearts, drained
and cut into quarters
1 large leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
8 asparagus stalks, cut into one inch
pieces
1 ½ cups arborio rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated
Juice of one lemon

  1. In a pot, bring the broth to a low simmer over medium heat, then remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the leek and saute until tender and golden. Add the artichokes and the asparagus, leaving the artichoke tips aside. Saute for 5 minutes and transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the rice and salt, and stir to coat the rice. Cook the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. (The rice may start to sizzle and crackle.)
  4. Reduce the heat to medium low, then add the broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each cup until the liquid is absorbed, approximately 5 minutes per cup. Add the saffron water and continue stirring so that the risotto becomes thick and creamy, about 20 to 30 minutes total.
  5. Once the risotto is finished cooking and the liquid is absorbed, stir in the vegetables, the lemon juice, the lemon rind, the pepper and the fresh herbs. Serve warm.

Rachel Sheff and Sharon Gompertshave been friends since high school. They love cooking and sharing recipes. They have collaborated on Sephardic Educational Center projects and community cooking classes. Find recipe video clips and recipes on Instagram SEPHARDIC SPICE GIRLS and Facebook SEPHARDIC SPICE SEC FOOD.

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