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Friday, January 22, 2021

Giving Thanks for the Yummiest Holiday Ever

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Little 7 year old me arrived in Los Angeles from Casablanca one week before Halloween. My uncle took me to get a costume and off we went trick or treating at the home of Elvis Presley. Lucille Ball handed me a Hershey’s Chocolate bar and I was convinced: America is paradise.

Little did I know that November would bring Thanksgiving with its wondrous foods. Roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing and creamy pumpkin pie for dessert. Best food ever!

My parents quickly adapted this most American of holidays and every year we indulged in Turkey and all the sides.

When my uncle and aunt and cousins arrived from Paris, they too fell in love with Thanksgiving. When my cousin Rachel was married, she took on the tradition of hosting the feast. She has tables set with beautiful flowers and her buffet groans under the weight of several birds and every traditional side—the beans, the mashed potatoes, the stuffing. There is a soup station, as well as cakes and pies and muffins. It’s over the top and absolutely fabulous.


Cousin Rachel’s Delicious Pumpkin Mash

32 oz (4 cups) sweet potato, cubed
32 oz (4 cups) butternut squash, cubed
30oz can pumpkin pie mix
1 cup vegetable broth
½ cup vegetable butter or coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups mixed dried berries (Trader Joe’s cranberries, blueberries, and raisins)
1 box granola (Trader Joe’s Ginger cereal)
1 cup pecans, to sprinkle on top

In a large bowl, combine the sweet potato, butternut squash and pumpkin pie mix. Add 1 cup of vegetable broth, melted butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and berries.

Pour into a large baking dish, bake covered with foil at 350 for an hour.

Cover the top with cereal and chopped pecans and bake for another 15 minutes until the top is golden.

This dish can be made several days ahead.

Serves 15


Rachel’s Sourdough Stuffing

6-8 cups sourdough bread, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 portobello mushrooms, chopped finely
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sage, finely chopped
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons brandy
3 oz bag roasted / peeled Chestnuts, chopped
1 granny smith apple, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 cup stock, (vegetable or chicken)
2 eggs beaten

One to two days ahead, cut sourdough loaf into cubes, place on a cookie sheet and let dry. (The more dry the bread, the better the stuffing consistency will be.)

In a small bowl combine cherries and brandy, set aside.

In a pan, sauté the onion in olive oil a few minutes and add the carrots and celery for 5 minutes, pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and mushrooms, sauté for a few minutes until they start to caramelize, add the balsamic, sauté a few more minutes, add salt and pepper, thyme and sage.

In a large bowl combine the mushrooms, vegetables, cherries with liquid, chestnuts, apple and bread, toss, add the stock and eggs, combine well.

Pour into a greased oven dish, preferably one that serves from oven to table.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until the top is toasty and golden.

Serves 10


Shira’s Spoon Bread Souffle

Over the years, we have shared some seriously gourmet Thanksgiving meals, with our friends Shira & Joe. Shira is an extremely talented and innovative home cook. Her Spoon Bread Soufflé is like cornbread, but super fluffy and delicious. When I make it, I like to add finely chopped scallions and sliced jalapeños. Definitely a dish that your family will enjoy and remember.

3 cups almond or oat milk
1 ½ cups cornmeal
3 tablespoons earth balance or coconut oil
1 tsp salt (omit if your shortening is salted)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup frozen roasted corn
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion (the green ends)
1 small seeded and finely sliced jalapeno (can be omitted)

Preheat oven 375.

Grease a deep baking dish.

Heat milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot, not boiling. Add the cornmeal and whisk until very thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in earth balance, salt, baking powder, egg yolks, roasted corn, scallion, and jalapeño, then set aside and cool.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks. Stir one fourth of whites into the cornmeal mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Spoon batter into baking dish and bake until golden brown and puffed, 45 to 50 minutes. Serve immediately, if possible.

Makes 8-10 side servings


Honey Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder
1/2 cup water
2 packages fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
1 cup raw pale honey
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½  teaspoon ground or fresh ginger

In a small bowl, sprinkle unflavored gelatin powder into water.

In a sauce pan, combine cranberries, orange juice, honey and orange zest.

Cook over low heat until the cranberries begin to soften and break up, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Pour gelatin mixture over the cranberries and add nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger stir well and remove from heat.

Let cool and refrigerate.

The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a week ahead and can be frozen for up to six months.


Rachel Sheff and Sharon Gomperts have been friends since high school. They love cooking and sharing recipes. They have collaborated on Sephardic Educational Center projects and community cooking classes. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food.

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