Traditional Spanish Food Goes Sephardic — So to Speak


While traditional Spanish foods are not inherently kosher, they can be modified to meet kashrut stipulations. And they then make for extremely tasty meals. 

My husband and I just enjoyed a mini-vacation in Barce­lona. While traditional Spanish foods are not inherently kosher, we were able to sample a few modified-for-kashrut specialties at a couple of kosher restaurants.
Tapas, for example — that Spanish finger-food appetizer with its many options. Olives are a must-have along with them.
Paella has been called the Spanish national dish, a colorful mixture of saffron-infused rice and various meats, shellfish, spices and rice. The name comes from the paellera, the flat, round pan in which it is cooked.
Traditionally, the paella is cooked out of doors, over a wood fire. The Eastern Spanish area of Valencia claims paella, but there are many, many versions other than the standard Valencian-style dish. In this kosher variation, chicken substitutes for the shellfish.
And if you don’t have an authentic paellera, the dish may be cooked in any large, round, shallow pan. Saffron is an integral part of this recipe, but if you must, substitute turmeric for the color, if not for the taste.
Then there’s Créme Catalan, a des­sert similar to créme brulee, which we spied a chef making in a bakery display window. The homemade version seems just as delicious.
Olive Spanish Potato Salad
3 medium potatoes, unpeeled
2 carrots, trimmed and scraped
5 eggs 
1 can (7.5 oz.) tuna, well-drained
1⁄3 cup well-drained canned peas 
4 oz. black olives, pitted and sliced
3 oz. canned sweet corn, drained
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (optional)
1⁄2 cup regular or reduced-fat mayonnaise (to taste)
2 oz. roasted red pepper strips
cilantro leaves
Scrub potatoes and place in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover with well-salted cold water. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Add carrots to the pot. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain potatoes and carrots and let cool, keeping boiling water to cook eggs.
Boil eggs for 15 minutes. Rinse under running cold water and peel. Let cool. Peel potatoes. Dice potatoes and carrots and chop hard-boiled eggs. Place in a large salad bowl.
Mix in tuna, peas and corn. Add olives, white wine vinegar and mayonnaise and mix thoroughly.
Arrange on individual small dishes and garnish with roasted red pepper strips and cilantro leaves.
Serves 4.
1⁄3 cup olive oil
1 medium chicken, cut into eighths
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 tomato, chopped
3-4 cups chicken stock 
1 tsp. dried oregano
1⁄4 gram saffron threads, ground into a powder (or 1⁄2 tsp. turmeric)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 and 1⁄2 cups short-grained rice (Arborio)
1 cup frozen peas
1⁄2 lb. mushrooms, quartered
1⁄2 lb. green beans
Heat the olive oil in a large, round, shallow pan. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides, and set aside.
In the remaining juices, saute the garlic and tomato for a few minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Add the oregano, saffron and paprika, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add in the rice, peas, mushrooms and green beans. Cook for several minutes over high heat, then reduce the heat and cook gently until the rice is tender, but still firm. For the last 1 to 2 minutes increase the heat to medium-high, until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize.
Serves 4 to 6.
Créme Catalana
Catalans use a special kitch­en device to caramelize the sugar directly on the cream. This looks like an electric immersion, with a shallow heating spiral. You can make this dessert the day before you want to serve it. Chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, heat the broiler and cara­melize the sugar and serve immediately. 
2 cups milk
1 cinnamon stick
rind of 1 lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
4 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup sugar (divided)
Bring the milk, cinnamon stick, lemon rind and vanilla to a boil in a medium saucepan. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for several minutes. Discard cinnamon stick and lemon rind. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Whisk the egg yolks with cornstarch and 3⁄4 cup sugar until mixture is creamy. Pour gradually into the saucepan with the milk mixture, stirring continuously. Slowly heat the mixture, stirring constantly, just until thickened. Do not boil. Remove pot from heat as soon as you feel resistance while stirring.
Ladle the mixture into 4 ramekins. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours.
Preheat the broiler. Remove ramekins with the crema catalana from refrigerator and sprinkle the rest of the sugar over each. When the broiler is hot, place the ramekins under the broiler on the top shelf and allow the sugar to caramelize, turning golden and brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Marinated Spanish Olives
1 jar black Spanish olives 
1⁄3 red onion, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds 
1 tsp. assorted peppercorns
1⁄2 cup mild olive oil
Drain the olives and place them in a bowl. Add peeled and sliced red onion. Crush the fennel seeds with the side of a knife and stir in. Mix in the peppercorns and olive oil. Leave at room temperature for about an hour.
Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed jar.
Rivka Tal is a former Minne­sotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at:



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