Archive for the ‘sephardic recipes’ Category

The holidays are almost here and the cooking has begun! Time for family, reflection and looking towards the year ahead.

One of the rich and unique traditions of our Sephardic families is a Rosh Hashana Seder. It is a short service we conduct around our tables with the Rosh Hashana evening meal, with some families doing it on both nights. Including the traditional blessings done at the holiday meal table (Kiddush, Blessing of the Children, Washing of the Hands, HaMotzi), blessings are also said over symbolic foods, expressing our hopes and wishes for the year ahead. Most of the foods used are those whose names in Hebrew sound similar to one of the wishes expressed, so there is some fun associated with this!

Although primarily a Sephardic tradition, many others have begun adding the Seder to their Rosh Hashana celebrations. My father remembers the “ratzones” from his childhood in Seattle…we began sharing the tradition with our children and friends within the past decade. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg suggests that each family add some blessings of our own, adding to our family traditions, adding puns we create around foods we include, which we have done from time to time. One of our Rebbetzins, Penina Schochet, suggested that we select a new fruit each year, having our young children be part of the process, and say a “shehecheyanu” over the addition of the new fruit, as a way to further grace our Rosh Hashanah table and include our children in selecting and trying something new.

Some families refer to this “service” as the “Yehi Ratzones”, referring to the words used “May it be Your will …” as referencing the symbolism that is to be recited. Often one hears the words “simanim”, referring to the ‘symbolic’ foods used. I will note some of the foods we eat and the translation of the blessings we say, primarily based on the materials prepared and provided by Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel (STTI) in Westwood, California, as well as materials prepared by the Maimon Family in Seattle, Washington.

My good friend, Linda Sendowski, has some wonderful recipes for Rosh Hashana foods, specifically these symbolic foods on her blog The Boreka Diary which I share with you. Also, the Rosh Hashana table of the delightful Stella Hanan Cohen was recently featured in the South African Jewish Review (Pages 14-16.) Check these out…and consider including some of these ideas and blessings at your Rosh Hashanah table this year.


For our Seder, we prepare a plate on the table that holds some of each symbolic food, and a prepared page for all our guests, including the blessings we will recite for the evening so all can participate. We include the Hebrew and English, and some years, the Ladino. Adapt as is comfortable for your household. We start with the Kiddush, the Shehecheyanu, Birkat Yeladim (Blessing of the Children), Washing the Hands, and the Hamotzi.

Following that, we recite a few blessings with intended good for the New Year, over some symbolic foods. The foods we use are usually plentiful during this season. Their Hebrew names, shades or colors remind us of our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. It is noted that “foods provide us an occasion to wish away our fears and verbalize our deepest hopes, as well as a chance to pun on their names in a number of local tongues”. (Source: Noam Zion in his paper Seder Rosh Hashanah)

1. Apples dipped in sugar or honey; apple cooked in sugar or honey; or candied apples:

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, to renew upon us a good and sweet year, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohenu Melech Haolam Bore Peri Haetz.

2. Leeks (karti):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies be cut off, as well as those who desire to do us harm.

(this is based on the wordplay between the Hebrew word for leek, “karti”, which is similar to the word “korat”, meaning “to cut off”)

3. Beets or Spinach (“silka” is usually identified as beets; Keter Shem Tov says it refers to spinach):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies disappear, as well as those who desire to do us harm.

4. Dates:

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies be consumed as well as those who desire to harm us.

(this is based on the wordplay between the Hebrew for dates, “tamar”, which is similar to a word meaning to “end” or “consume”)

5. Pumpkin or gourd (zucchini or squash; “kalavasa” is often used):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that you should tear up any evil decrees against us and let our merits be read before you.

(this is based in the wordplay between the Aramaic word for pumpkin or gourd, “kara”, and the Hebrew word meaning to “tear”)

6. Fish (pishkado):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits may multiply as the fish in the sea. Others have commented that as fish is a symbol of abundance and fertility, we ask God to Bless us with both.

7. “Ruviah”, often identified as Fenugreek, although sometimes referred to as black eyed peas or string beans. It is told that in Bagdad, it was referred to as “luviah”. Since it was similar to the Hebrew word “lev”, meaning heart, the word “ut-labevenu” (meaning “and purify us”) was added. (Linda Sendowski has a great recipe for Black Eyed Peas!)

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits increase and that you purify us.

8. Pomegranates (Use the seeds in your cooking or in a in a salad)

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits increase as the seeds of the pomegranate.

9. Head of Fish (something from the head….in our family, my Aunt Belina Hasson used to make tongue (I cannot get myself to even buy a tongue, let alone figure out how to cook it….so, since this is based on puns, we use a “head” of lettuce):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that we may be in the forefront as the head, and not the background, as the tail.

The festival meal then follows.

In keeping with Yitz Greenberg’s suggestions, one could add:
Peaches: May it be a “peachy” year
Dates: May our single friends have many “dates” this year
Mushrooms: May our abundance “mushroom” in the years ahead….

Have fun with this and make it meaningful to your family!

Finally, I am attaching a link to a YouTube series of “The Selichot of Ezra Bessaroth”, in Seattle, Washington. It is a ten-part series of the Selichot service in the tradition of the Jews of Rhodes, led by Hazzan Isaac Azose, with many in the Congregation participating. The melodies are familiar to those of us who grew up in Rhodesli Sephardic Synagogues. There is something comforting and reaffirming in melodies, memories and flavors of our youth. I hope you will take a few minutes to listen and enjoy.

Please share with us any of your own family traditions….we would love to post them. Sharing keeps traditions alive and evolving for each new generation!

From our home to yours, Anyada buena i dulse ke tengas….a good and sweet New Year to all; Tizku Leshanim Rabot…May we all merit many years;!

~Marcia Israel Weingarten
Bendichas Manos


*adapted from a previous post

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My mom is baking and preparing for Rosh Hashana…..Boyos, burekas, biscochos, pan di casa, reshas….all our family favorites.
Posting some tried and true recipes in hope that you might give them a try. Please share your menus and favorite family memories with us.
Together – we’ll keep our traditions alive!

Boyos di Spinaka


Burekas, biscochos and reshas


Pan di Casa


Wishing all an ‘anyada buena i dulce”. Tizku L’eshanim Rabot – may we all merit many years.

~Bendichas Manos

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“Bulicunio” – “Susam” – a wonderful confection that combines the rich nutty flavor of sesame seeds with a honey syrup creating a taste and texture treat for the palate. My Mother has made boulicunio for both our sons’ brit milot – and it has been a favorite of my husband’s. Usually around Passover, it becomes available in stores in pre made, individually wrapped pieces and I buy them for him.

Inspired by a post from Stella Hanan Cohen ( “Stella’s Sephardic Table”), I asked my mom to make some. Starting with a recipe from Aunt Rosha Benveniste Solam (z’l) we tweaked it somewhat, adapted for Passover, and set out to make Boulicunio.

Boulicunio ( Susam Candy)

3 C Sesame Seeds
1 C Sugar
1 C Honey
1/4 C Hot Water
1 tsp Lemon
3/4 C Toasted Almonds
2 Tblsp Matzh Flour


Toast sesame seeds in frying pan over medium flame until golden brown.
Add flour toward end.
toasting susam

Toast the almonds and add them to the sesame mixture.

Toasted Almonds

In a separate pot, mix sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Stir to keep from burning. It will foam and begin to bubble. Add honey and keep stirring. Syrup is ready when….well, when a small amount dropped into a cup of cold water forms a ball.
Add syrup to the sesame mixture.
Pour mixture onto a lightly greased work table or cutting board.

When cool, roll small batches into 1 inch ropes.
Cut at a diagonal.


Can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.

A taste and texture treat! Give them a try and let us know what you think.

Enjoy this time of preparing for the holiday and sharing special foods with family and friends. Pass along family traditions – create new ones. Always cook with love!

~Bendichas Manos!

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Reprinting a family favorite…

There are several foods that my mom prepares especially and only for Pesah.  Keftes di Prassa (leek patties) is one of those specialities.

In our family, these are vegetarian – others make them with ground meat. (these are one of my husband’s very favorite Sephardic treats!!) (more…)

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Sephardic Foods

The High Holidays are upon us! As we prepare to greet each other with wishes of ‘Anyada Buena’ (A good year) and ‘Tizku Leshanim Rabot’ ( may you be written for many, many years)….we prepare, too, for family gatherings and the special foods that we love to share. My mom has begun baking boyos, burekas, reshas, biscochos as well as some special sweet treats for a sweet year. I am posting past posts of some of these recipes.

In addition, I am including a post about a traditional Rosh Hashana Seder. Some families call these the ‘Ratzones’, from the phrase ‘Yehi Ratzone’, (may it be your will…) referring to the opening words of the blessings, referencing the traditional foods that are eaten. It is a lovely, traditional Sephardic custom that has gained popularity in recent years even among non-Sephardim. I hope you will explore it. Perhaps add it to your family repertoire. Tweak it – add new elements – make it your own!

I invite you to add your holiday memories as comments.

In addition, join the conversation on Facebook at ‘Bendichas Manos’

Wishing you all an ‘Anyada Buena!’ A good year. Tizku Leshanim Rabot – may we all be written in the Book of Life and granted many, many years.

~Bendichas Manos!!!

Baking Burekas


Burekas di Beringena, Reshas, Biscochos di Huevo

A Rosh Hashana Seder

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Carol Goodman Kaufman, in a recent article for The Forward, writes, “Tu B’Shvat, on the 15th of the month of Shvat (the “T” and “U” equate to the numbers 9 and 6, respectively), was originally designated for the purpose of calculating the age of trees both for harvesting and tithing purposes. The Torah prohibits fruit from being eaten during the first three years of a tree’s growth, but on Tu B’Shvat we eat the first fruits of the fourth year, as well as samples of the seven species mentioned in the Torah (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.)
Even though almonds aren’t included among the seven species, their trees blossom at around the same time in the month of Shvat (roughly February), so the holiday has evolved over time to include the nuts in its menu of delights.”
Read more: http://forward.com/food/330279/almonds-and-marzipan-for-tu-bshvat/#ixzz3y2ghzHtj

The article includes a recipe for marzipan.  


I am reprinting here our Rhodesli recipe for Masapan, in honor of Tu B’shvat. Thank you, Carol, for the inspiration!


“Masapan”……marzipan….that delicious sweet that our mothers lovingly make for engagements, weddings, a brit milan or a Bar (and today even a Bat) Mitzvah.  Basically a homemade almond confection made with ground almonds and sugar, Marzipan traces it’s origin to …..well….that depends.  Some say the Persian empire, introduced to Europe by the Turks;  others claim the origin to be Spain.  In any case, it got to us, was a delicacy on our beloved Island of Rhodes, and our grandmothers brought it here with them when they came to these shores.  

While some in Eastern Europe talk of marzipan being colored and fashioned into miniature fruit-like shapes, our variation is kept in it’s white, pure state, made into a simple design  –    A very special variety is shaped into a ‘pastelico’ like  cup and filled with rosewater or orange blossom scented ‘shroupe’, capped and artfully edged….a treat for the senses!
My mother, Kaye Hasson Israel, uses a recipe shared with her by Rebecca Levy. I watched her make it last week. Here is the recipe and photos.    This recipe makes about 125 pieces of masapan.Image
6 C almonds
3 C sugar
4 C water
Start with raw almonds.    To blanche, bring a pot of water to a boil. ( enough water to cover the almonds).  When water boils, add almonds and leave them in for 4 to 5 minutes (until skin is loose).
Rinse in a colander with cold water.  Remove the skins from the almonds and place almonds into a bowl of cold water ( to prevent discoloration).
Take a clean towel and dry almonds thoroughly.
Put almonds into food processor with blade.
Grind to a fine texture.
In the meantime,  mix sugar and water and heat over medium/high flame.  Make sure sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.  This is to make a sticky syrup.  Stir and watch carefully so it does not discolor or burn.
Test for correct stickiness by removing spoon from pot, allow it to cool a bit, placing a drop on your fingers and noting a ‘thread’ of sugar when pressing then pulling apart finger and thumb.


At this point, lower the heat and add ground almonds.  Thoroughly  blend and constantly stir mixture.   Cook and stir masapan until it reaches a dough-like consistency. ( it will cleanly leave the sides and bottom of the pan).   Remove from heat and allow to thoroughly cool
Once cooled, knead on your rolling surface to create a smooth dough.  Pinch off small portions and roll into a long strip.  (Perhaps cut into 10 – 12 portions before rolling).
Keep a bowl of water handy.  Dampen your rolling surface and hands, as it will make it easier to roll out.  Cut at an angle into diamond shaped pieces.
Our tradition has been to top with a decorative silver ball ( dragees ). These are for decoration and not to be consumed.

For engagements, our tradition has been to make a “mano” (hand) fashioned out of masapan, with silver dragees across the ring finger.  This is fashioned on a tray, surrounded by cut pieces of masapan, jordan almonds and often, a gold leafed piece of ‘aruda’ ( the rue plant).

Masapan Mano

Like all our delicacies, masapan takes a bit of practice.  And the results are divine!  Enjoy for your special celebrations…and for a special Passover treat!
Bendichas manos!

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I have been devouring the new book I just received, Stella’s Sephardic Table, Jewish family recipes from the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes. This is a beautiful coffee table book compiled by Stella Cohen, an artist, cookbook author and proud Sephardic Jew, born and raised in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia ( today known as Harare, Zimbabwe). The book is filled with treasured Rhodesli recipes, wonderful photographs, a history of Rhodes, special holiday recipes, traditions, folk remedies, beliefs and blessings and so much more! A treasure trove for anyone who traces their family background to the glorious Juderia of Rhodes as well as those who love traditional Sephardic cuisine.

Reading the recipes, the stories, the Ladino sayings……Stella’s tale of visiting her grandchildren who, after kisses and hugs ask, “Nonna, where are the reshikas?”…things we, as Rhodeslis, can relate to! Imagine! Stella grew up in Africa, a world away from me….and her family table, recollection of family holidays and stories passed down from grandparents of the glorious Island of Rhodes….almost identical! What a joy to see these recipes, stories and reflections in print! It validates our experiences, gives voice to our traditions and helps keep our traditions alive and thriving, for our children and generations to come!

This is a ‘must have’ addition for your library! You can order it today by visiting Amazon. (order several copies…you’ll want to share them with your family and friends!! A wonderful gift!!!)


Our son David, sent us an article that was printed in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz entitled, “Racing to save the Ladino legacy of Sephardi Jews”. The article told of an effort by a U.S. academic, Dr. Devin Naar, an assistant professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle who is attempting to collect, preserve and digitize the rich Ladino heritage of Sephardic Jews. David has had the opportunity to study with Professor Naar at UW.

The Professor notes that while Yiddish books have been collected and digitized for sometime, Ladino literature has had no such effort, and no organized depository. He is working to do just that as part of the Sephardic Studies initiative of the University of Washington’s Stroum Jewish Studies program. Our friends at eSefarad.com have reprinted his article, as well. Take a look. If you have books, leaflets or any Ladino writing you might wish to share, message us. We will be happy to pass your information along to Dr. Naar. Perhaps YOU can help to keep the beautiful Ladino language alive !


We wish to share a bold and valuable commentary from Rabbi Daniel Bouskila speaking to the classic Sephardic worldview of modernity, inclusion and tolerance. If you have not yet had a chance to read it, please do by clicking here. And for a weekly spark of inspiration and learning, sign up to receive his weekly Torah Thoughts from the Sephardic Educational Center by clicking here.

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Finally, July 23 is a dark day in the Rhodesli world, recalling the day when the deportation of the Jews from Rhodes took place. There were about 1600 souls taken from Rhodes and the nearby Island of Kos and shipped, in the worst of conditions to the hell that was Auschwitz. Many died en route. About 1200 were gassed almost immediately upon arrival. Countless others died from starvation, exposure, torture and unspeakable inhumanity at the hands of the Nazis. Only 151 survived.

On July 23, take a moment to recall those of Rhodes whose lives were cut short by the brutality of the horrific Nazi regime.
Consider adding a book on the subject to your family or community library so the martyred souls of Rhodes will forever be remembered.
Consider one of the following:
The Juderia: A Holocaust Survivor’s Tribute to the Jewish Community of Rhodes by Laura Varon
Rhodes and the Holocaust: The Story of the Jewish Community from the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes by Isaac Benatar

Ah, Rhodes!!!

~Bendichas Manos

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