My father’s upbringing in Baghdad, Iraq didn’t embrace pop psychology. In truth, there was little or no that was Western about his formative years. It all the time amused me when he would make references about his childhood and speak about Western issues like calling bread “loaf” and the way he smoked a Marlboro cigarette as soon as (hated it and by no means picked up one other) and the primary time he noticed a film and was so impressed by the dramatic music and loud announcement “twentieth Century Fox” in Arabic.

My father’s upbringing included self-discipline, utter and immense respect for his mother and father and a robust sense of accountability for household. He by no means informed me that he beloved his mother and father, however I knew it from the tales he informed about them. I by no means heard him inform my mom “I like you!” However it was apparent in the best way he behaved, in gestures large and small. He by no means stated “I like you” to me, however I knew it within the core of my being.

I’ve a confession to make. I’ve a Starbucks dependancy — each single day, I am going there for a flat white. I do know, I do know, there are higher coffees on the market, however I actually love their water (as soon as I overheard a supervisor explaining to a possible barrista that the water goes via reverse osmosis 18 occasions). Additionally, they’ve a Rewards program. Let’s simply say I’ve plenty of stars!

My father additionally beloved espresso. Throughout his lengthy stays within the hospital, my favourite factor to do was to deliver him a Starbucks latte. And day by day (principally nights) that I left the hospital, I might kiss my father on the brow and say “Ani ohevet ot’cha!” (I like you in Hebrew.)

My father’s funeral in Beit Shemesh, Israel was a surreal expertise. (I have to thank Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob Congregation, Israeli Consul-Common Hillel Newman and my husband Alan for spending hours on the telephone to make sure that my father’s physique was on the Monday morning El Al flight.)

His funeral was preceded by that of Cantor Moshe Kraus, a 100 12 months outdated Holocaust survivor. Kraus sang each Sunday for Commandant Josef Kramer, the “beast of Belsen,” who saved him alive due to his lovely voice. Many survivors of Bergen-Belsen keep in mind that Moshele’s trove of Yiddish and sacred music saved their hope and religion alive in that darkish, hellish place. After the struggle, he turned the primary official Hazan of Tzahal, the Israeli Defence Drive. And though he lived in Ottawa and handed away childless, his funeral was standing room solely.

It was so bittersweet to be reunited with my father’s a lot beloved sisters Daisy and Adina and youthful brother Naim, his associate in youthful adventures and Aliyah to Israel. It was heartwarming to see so lots of my fathers nieces and nephews, my mom’s cousins and so many buddies take the time to mourn with us on a extremely popular Tuesday afternoon.

We sat Shiva in Rehavia. The condominium had an enormous balcony surrounded by sentry palm timber, tall eucalyptus and flowering vegetation, with views of the Russian Compound and the white dome of the YMCA. My cousin Sarah Sassoon, poet and youngsters’s e book writer, introduced us a pot of lentil soup (conventional mourners meals) and a big tray of essentially the most scrumptious rooster and easy white rice.

The condominium was on the third flooring and the entrance door was all the time left broad open. However it was nonetheless a shock when a person simply walked in, bearing two enormous bins of scorching burekas and greeted us with the normal “HaMakom Yanachem Otchem.” (The Place Will Consolation You.) Only a common Israeli supply man. I really cried once I opened the cardboard and noticed the loving message from Beth Jacob.

Sephardim have the minhag to serve an array of meals at Shiva in order that guests make a bracha for the neshama (soul) to have an Aliyah in Heaven. Happily, the meals in Israel, particularly in the summertime, is ridiculously good. Juicy watermelon, darkish ripe cherries, candy fleshy peaches. Recent, chewy multi-grain bread with flavorful yellow cheeses. And one of the best “pitzuchim”—pumpkin seeds, nuts, dried fruit and even Japanese rice crackers. Day by day, I might ship my son Ariel and my nephew Yosef Yitzchak to Shuk Mach’ne Yehuda with a protracted record of meals to purchase.

Our expensive household pal Lillian despatched us an exquisite fruit platter. My good pal Shirley organized a protracted record of buddies who contributed to an appetizer tray full of Syrian kibbe (made with bulgur and floor beef), lach’majin (mini Syrian floor beef pizzas), kubbah and fried rooster poppers. My mom’s cousin Ilana introduced selfmade ka’akat, a crispy, salty ring cracker that’s historically served at Iraqi mourning properties.

Many guests introduced truffles and cookies. There have been plenty of lengthy, slender chocolate babkas (referred to as crunch in Israel).


When Sharon got here again from Israel, she informed me that she wished to make Kubbah Bamia and Kubbah Shwandar for her father’s Shloshim. Kubbah is the catch all identify for a shell casing round a meat ball comprised of floor beef or lamb or rooster breast, generally made with bulgur or potato or rice. However Sharon was speaking about making Kubbah with semolina. It’s very fiddly and never that straightforward to make.

On the appointed day, I walked in to Kahal Joseph to see Sharon and our good buddies Esther and Jazmin and Kahal’s resident chef Penina sitting in entrance of business dimension bowls of semolina dough and floor beef blended with Italian parsley, finely chopped onion and spices.

I sat down, overwhelmed by the duty at hand. I assumed for positive we might be there till midnight. However I forgot who I used to be coping with, these girls are severe within the kitchen. Earlier than we knew it, we had produced 360 Kubbah, which Penina promptly froze. Sharon even repurposed the leftover meat filling into massive trays of kebab by including eggs, potato starch and extra spices.

Within the time it took to scrub our fingers, Esther had already made an industrial dimension bowl of ma’amul dough (made with flour and semolina and flippantly scented with orange blossom water) and one other bowl with a date paste filling and one with a crushed nut filling. We began an industrial line. Esther rolled the dough into balls for us. Jazmin crammed hers with the dates and I crammed mine with the nuts and we pressed every ball into the gorgeous picket molds and banged out 200 cookies. The odor of the cookies baking within the oven was heavenly. In the meantime, Sharon and Penina had been rolling date and nuts balls into coconut (considered one of her father’s favourite treats).

I took a deep breath and checked out my expensive, devoted buddies cooking collectively. I assumed to myself “Wow, that is the way it should have been again within the day, with household and neighbors gathering to prepare dinner and bake collectively.”

Esther was ready to maintain going however all of us protested. All of us went dwelling for some well-deserved relaxation. I considered what we had achieved — we had made these difficult, conventional recipes with such ease and camaraderie. We even had some laughs.

On the morning of the memorial for Sharon’s father, I walked into the kitchen at Kahal Joseph. Sharon and her daughter Alexandra had 4 enormous pots of stew boiling on the fireplace. There have been two pots of vibrant reddish purple beet stew and two pots of deep tomato-red okra and butternut squash stew. It was a magical sight to see Sharon and Alexandra drop all of the Kubbah we had made into the 2 bigger pots. (To accommodate the vegetarian company, Sharon saved the smaller pots of every stew vegan.)

Sharon and I arrange a protracted buffet desk. Within the center, there was an ornamental bicycle full of brilliant flowers (symbolic of the bicycle Sharon’s father rode effectively into his 80’s). There was fried fish and baked rooster, white rice and Persian dill rice and many salad. However the Kubbah was a significant hit with Ashkenazi and Sephardi alike. Everybody thanked us for this particular meal. Fairly a number of folks informed us that the Kubbah took them again to their grandmothers’ kitchen.

The dessert desk was full of recent fruit and dates and dried fruits and nuts and Alexandra’s freshly baked brownies. Our flower formed Ma’amul cookies had been wonderful. The crispy dough was flippantly dusted with powdered sugar and had simply the proper crunch and ideal orange blossom fragrance. The dates inside had been melted easy and scrumptious. They disappeared in minutes.

Usually occasions, we prepare dinner as a result of we’ve to feed our household and buddies. However generally our cooking has a deeper objective. Our objective was to honor the reminiscence of Sharon’s father by getting ready his favourite Iraqi meals. I’m so very happy with my expensive Spice Woman Sharon for carrying on the legacy and traditions of her grandmothers.

I really know the blessing comes from our fingers and is transmitted into the meals we make. When you’re cooking with intention and love in your coronary heart, you obtain perfection. The meals bursts with taste and texture and you may style the love.

I really know the blessing comes from our fingers and is transmitted into the meals we make. When you’re cooking with intention and love in your coronary heart, you obtain perfection. The meals bursts with taste and texture and you may style the love.

What a particular night to honor the neshama of David Ben Rafael and Rosa.

You could possibly really feel the love within the room.


Okra and Butternut Stew

1/4 cup additional virgin olive oil

1 massive onion, finely diced

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp candy pink paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp finely floor black pepper

1 tsp salt

Six cloves garlic finely chopped

2 massive tomatoes, finely chopped

1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp sugar

Two massive lemons juiced

4 cups of water

2 Tbsp consommé powder

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and lower into 2 inch cube

1 400g bag frozen okra

In a big pot, heat oil over medium warmth. Add onions and sauté till translucent. Add turmeric, paprika, garlic powder, pepper and salt and stir effectively.

Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir effectively and convey to a boil.

Add the sugar, lemon juice and water. Stir effectively.

Add the consommé powder and the butternut squash and stir effectively. Cowl the pot and decrease the warmth. Enable to simmer for 20 minutes.

Add okra and simmer for one more 10 minutes.

Serve scorching with white rice.

Esther’s Ma’amul Recipe


2 cups all objective flour

1 cup semolina flour

1/2 tsp rose water

1 cup unsalted butter or margarine or coconut oil

Nut Filling

1 pound walnuts, floor

2 Tbsp confectioners sugar

1 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine or coconut oil, melted

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp orange blossom water

Date Filling

1 lb pitted dates

1/2 cup floor walnuts

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp orange blossom water

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix flour and semolina in a big bowl till it has a crumb consistency.

Add rose water, fold within the butter and add 1/2 tsp lukewarm water.

Knead the dough effectively and place within the fridge till prepared to make use of.

Put together the fillings by combining the substances.

Divide the dough into 4 parts.

Work with one portion at a time, whereas overlaying the remaining as you’re employed.

Pinch walnut dimension balls of dough, then press down on the middle together with your finger, to type a ½ inch indentation.

Fill the indentation with ¼ tsp of the filling, then shut the pastry.

If utilizing a ma’amoul mould, press the highest of the pastry firmly towards the mould, then flippantly faucet the mould on a tough floor to take away the pastry.

Place the pastry on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake 10-12 minutes or till the underside of the pastries are flippantly browned and tops stay pale.

Sprinkle the cookies with confectioners’ sugar earlier than serving.

Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been buddies since highschool. The Sephardic Spice Women undertaking has grown from their collaboration on occasions for the Sephardic Academic Middle in Jerusalem. Comply with them

on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Fb at Sephardic Spice SEC Meals. Web site