Shelly, Dan, Leo, and Alex Gilad. Photography: Matt Klapner
Shelly, Dan, Leo, and Alex Gilad. Photography: Matt Klapner

The Sfenj That Brings Grandma Back

Grandma Mama's Sfenj has benefitted from the Gilad family's travels as much as they have- lightly seasoned with cardamom and served with maple syrup and salt

Who are we?

Shelly Gilad
Born in 1974 in Be’er Sheva, Shelly is a culinary producer, illustrator and former graphic designer. She owns the blog Shelly’s Humble Kitchen in which she documents her family’s life through recipes and memories. Shelly was 12 when her parents divorced and she and her mother moved to North Tel Aviv: “We were the only Moroccan family in the building, and I was embarrassed of my mother‘s food and the smells from our kitchen that enveloped the entire building,” she recalls. “I too wanted to warm up ready-made schnitzels in the microwave, like my new girlfriends from the neighborhood, but my mother said ‘over my dead body’.” Years later, after completing her military service, Shelly moved to New York and it was only then that she grew homesick and began recreating her mother and grandmother’s delicacies in the kitchen.

Dan Gilad
Born in Jerusalem in 1969. Dan is an animation expert (Motion Graphic), director, producer and video editor. Dan was 5 years old when his parents divorced and he and his mother moved to the United States, where he grew up. “I remember as a child, back in Israel, the cold bean soup my grandfather, who emigrated from Czechoslovakia, cooked, the Lecsó, a Hungarian pepper stew, which I still really like to this day, and noodles mixed with poppy seeds or ground nuts and sugar that were served to the table.”

And the children:
17 years old, is a 12th grade student at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles. Leo is a big fan of sushi, Vietnamese pho and pizza but he will always favor his mother’s Moroccan bean soup, which Shelly describes as ‘the Moroccan version of chili con carne’; a simple red-hot,
slow-cooked, homemade soup.

13 years old, is a student at Walter Reed High School in Los Angeles. His parents testify that he has a well-developed sense of taste: “Alex is willing to try everything,” says his father, and “he never misses an opportunity to have Uni (sea urchin).” Alex loves snacks and teases his mother for refusing to have them in the house: “I eat junk food!” he tells her mischievously.

Where was the photo taken?

“The kitchen is the most important place in our home,” Shelly says. “It is around the dining table that we sit and talk. Twice a day, every day, at lunch and dinner, that we share a meal and spend time together.” In recent years, the Gilad family has been living in Los Angeles. They returned to the United States following a stay in Spain’s Palma de Mallorca and Tel Aviv. “We almost always eat at home and rarely go out to restaurants,” says Dan, and Shelly adds: “at the end of practically every meal the children hug me and say ‘Mom, thank you’. And I am always very moved by it.”

Our family kitchen

A healthy diet is very important to the Gilad family. “Mother always made sure we ate healthy food and she often quoted Maimonides who said things like ‘man shall not eat his stomach full’,” says Shelly. “We also eat healthy and only have unprocessed, fresh organic food. We also bake our own bread if there isn’t a good bakery near where we live, and no snacks are allowed in the house, to Alex’s displeasure.”

In addition to using only fresh organic ingredients, the family’s kitchen reflects the family members’ nomadic lifestyle. “Everywhere we went we took something delicious with us as a souvenir; from Israel we adopted the Moroccan delicacies and the abundant use of fresh vegetables and fruits, we picked up bagels and so much more from New York, and Los Angeles introduced us to a plethora of Asian cuisines. The kitchen is my creative space. In fact, I’m like my grandmother, Mama, with the addition of an Instagram account and a Sony camera,” Shelly jokes.

The House Special: Sfenj

“These are the most delicious donuts in the world,” says Shelly with a wide smile. “A good Sfenj needs to be light and airy just like a cloud. It is made completely by hand: you touch the dough, pinch and caress it. For me, it is a meditation that brings back memories. When I make Sfenj, I can feel Grandma Mama by my side again.” Sfenj originates from North Africa; yeast-risen dough rings are deep-fried and dipped in honey or coated in powdered sugar. “Because we have lived in so many places, my version of Sfenj is a bit Swedish, seasoned with cardamom, and a bit Canadian, because during Hanukkah I serve it with maple syrup and a few flakes of salt,” says Shelly.

Get the Gilad family recipe for Sfenj

*שמנו לב שחסרים כמה פרטים קטנים להשלמת הפרופיל שלך ב־FOODISH, אפשר להוסיף אותם בקלות בעמוד המשתמש שלך.