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The Power of Pink— Cherry Tomato Tartlets

The acidic pop of the cherry tomatoes contrasts deliciously with the herby umami of the almond basil pesto.
[additional-authors]
February 22, 2024
Photo by Sephardic Spice Girls

Last Thursday morning, at Trader Joe’s on La Cienega, I was being my usual ridiculous self. I had two carts — one for Shabbat food for my home and one for a grazing table for the Sephardic Spice Girls Sharsheret Pink Challah Bake at Kahal Joseph Congregation. As I was crisscrossing the aisles, checking the shopping list Rachel had made for me and going over the mental check list in my very porous brain, I saw a beautiful blonde lady following me with her eyes. After crossing paths several times, she came up to me and said “Are you the Rabbi’s sister?” 

Yes, I answered. “I’m coming to your event tonight,” she said. Then a cloud came over her face. “My sister Eti was a breast cancer survivor for four decades. Then it came back. She had just celebrated her 70th birthday. And now I am in the Shloshim for her.” 

We both started crying. I always cry when other people cry. And two perfect strangers hugged each other in front of the leftover Valentines Day display on a bright, sunny February day. 

Unfortunately, this Pink Challah Bake already felt really significant to me. I have too many young friends who have battled this disease. I have too many friends whose mothers are battling this disease, right now. And too many friends who have lost their mothers to breast and ovarian cancer. 

Sharsheret is a cause dear to our hearts and Rachel and I have had the honor of partnering with Sharsheret over the years, from doing a healthy cooking demo for Sharsheret in the Kitchen to running a pink hamantaschen bake, buying their Thanksgiving pies, hosting a Just the Girls cancer awareness talk at Beth Jacob and participating in their big annual fundraiser the Sharsheret West Coast Dash, a 5K, 10K and a Family Fun Race.

How can we not support an organization that helps raise awareness for a disease that disproportionately affects our community?

How can we not support an organization that helps raise awareness for a disease that disproportionately affects our community?

Jessica Jablon, our friend from Sharsheret, spoke about all the services that this national non-profit organization provides to Jewish and non-Jewish people facing breast and ovarian cancer. Including genetic counseling, mental health care, emotional support, peer support and financial subsidies. It’s a long list of services, all of them crucial. 

Fellow Shalhevet parent and renowned oncologist Dr. Noam Drazin spoke about the higher incidence of the BRCA gene mutation in the Jewish community and how it puts our population at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers, prostate cancer and melanoma. He generously answered all the questions of his curious audience. The key takeaway from his litany of statistics and the risks was his message of hope — early detection is key to better outcome and survival. 

Our group of bakers came together to say Tehillim for the i’lui neshama of Suzie’s beloved sister, as well as the safety of the soldiers of Tzahal and the release of the hostages. Suzie, Rachel and I hugged again. Hopefully, we healed a tiny bit of her pain. 

—Sharon 

I always get a little nervous when Sharon and I do these live events. It’s a lot of work to set up and invariably, we always forget one thing or another. Luckily, we have amazing volunteers (a shout-out to Rafi, Maurice and Penina!) who make sure everything is perfect. 

In the past, we have worked with super-talented Chef Tomer of MBT Events at OBKLA (he even catered the bar mitzvah of Sharon’s nephew Erez at Seventh Place). He graciously offered to help us with this event. Tomer showed up with trays of food that he generously donated — mouthwatering crispy fried beef rolls with an Asian dipping sauce, cherry tomato tartlets and irresistibly cute, brightly colored sprinkle cake pops wrapped in plastic with a pretty gold bow. He helped us arrange the perfect graze table. And he even scooped out the seven cups of flour for each of our bakers. Follow him on Instagram @madebytomer. 

Baking challah is something I love to do. I love to be creative with my dough and to think of new designs that have special meaning. For this Pink Bake, I braided a big, beautiful heart challah and decorated it with pretty little dried pink roses. I sprinkled pink sugar crystals on “pink ribbon” challahs. And I made a huge batch of dough, so that we could say the bracha of hafrashat challah. There was such tremendous love and energy in the room when Rabbanit Bracha Halevy (Sharon’s sister-in-law) recited the bracha for cxhallah and the Tehillim. 

This week we share Chef Tomer’s bright, cheery recipe for Cherry Tomato Tartlets. The acidic pop of the cherry tomatoes contrasts deliciously with the herby umami of the almond basil pesto. Nothing compares to flaky, crispy puff pastry. This dish just feels celebratory. 

It is always wonderful to be with our friends and to meet new people at our classes. It is a valuable reminder that sharing joy doubles our happiness. 

With our prayers for good health and an urgent reminder to show yourself some love and schedule that mammogram. 

—Rachel 

Cherry Tomato Tartlets

1 package frozen puff pastry squares, defrosted
Filling
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
10 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Add onions, salt and pepper, then sauté until slightly golden, about 5 minutes.
Place puff pastry squares on a floured work surface.
Cut out an L shape along one side, then cut an L shape on the opposite corner. Then place one over the other to crisscross, so that the twist is formed.
Place sautéed onions in the center of the pastry twist. Then add the tomatoes.
Lightly brush sides with egg wash.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until golden in color.
Drizzle with almond pesto and balsamic glaze.
Garnish with fresh pomegranate.

Almond Pesto
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 bunches fresh basil
1 cup roasted almonds
4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in food processor and blend until the paste has a thick consistency.
Note: fresh pesto can be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed glass jar for up to one month.


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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