Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

Perfect summer fish

The Perfect Summer Fish Dish

Here’s a fabulous, easy, healthy recipe just in time for the nine days (the days leading up to the Ninth of Av when observant Jews refrain from eating meat and chicken).

I’ll say it here — my Moroccan Spice Girl partner is a fearless, talented cook! She doesn’t flinch from complicated recipes and sophisticated ingredients. Oftentimes, her Moroccan recipes have an unexpected French flair. Like her penchant for cooking fish (and chicken) with white wine.

Recently, she made a delicious white fish with sautéed leeks and potatoes and the secret ingredient is half a cup of white wine. So, in anticipation of the nine days, I decided to try my own version of her fish recipe.

The first step is to sauté the leeks. If you have ever cooked with leeks you know that they impart the most delicious buttery flavor. (You also know that they are notoriously full of dirt, so do yourself a favor and buy the trimmed leeks from Trader Joe’s.) Then I added chopped garlic, orange peppers and cherry tomatoes and let the heat soften the veggies.

Then I added the wine and mustard powder and mixed well. What I’ve learned is that using a good quality dry white wine as a cooking liquid enhances the flavor and aroma of the fish — the alcohol burns off and the sweetness and acidity becomes concentrated.

Simmering in the sauce ensures that the fish remains moist and sprinkling my favorite spices (sweet paprika and turmeric) ensures that the fish has an appealing color. 

Simmering in the sauce ensures that the fish remains moist and sprinkling my favorite spices (sweet paprika and turmeric) ensures that the fish has an appealing color. 

While Rachel adds her potatoes to the skillet, I couldn’t resist frying those little Dutch baby potatoes to a golden crispness and serving them on the side.

A caveat: Rachel doesn’t cook peas with her fish. I added them to my skillet for color, flavor and nutrition. 

So here’s a fabulous, easy, healthy recipe just in time for the nine days (the days leading up to the Ninth of Av when observant Jews refrain from eating meat and chicken).

Honestly, you may want to keep this recipe in your repertoire!

– Sharon

Branzino With White Wine and Sautéed Leeks

2 lbs branzino or sea bass fillets, cut into
4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek, finely sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped into long slivers
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup vegetable broth or water
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 cups petite green peas
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

  • Place fish in a single layer on a dish and sprinkle with the salt.
  • In a large ovenproof skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat and sauté the leeks for 3 to 5 minutes until they are translucent and slightly golden.
  • Add garlic, orange pepper and cherry tomatoes and continue to sauté for 3 minutes.
  • Add the white wine, broth and mustard powder, and bring to a simmer.
  • Using a paper towel, pat the fish dry.
  • Place the fish in the middle of the skillet.
  • Add the peas and lemon around the edges of the skillet.
  • Sprinkle paprika and turmeric on top of the fish.
  • Cover and let steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Serve with crispy new potatoes or white rice.

Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been friends since high school. The Sephardic Spice Girls project has grown from their collaboration on events for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food

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