My husband spends a lot of time working on a bi-national grant with France, in Paris and Nancy. A few years ago he returned with wonderful descriptions of a T'fina (a warm, slowly cooked sabbath dish in the Sephardic tradition) he had eaten called Pkaïla. T'fina is the Sephardic equivalent of the Ashkenazic cholent. Another Sephardic term for this type of dish is hammim, a warm dish. Pkaïla is a dark, nearly black, stew of spinach, meat, garlic, and white beans. The sauce has a unique aroma and flavor of mint and dill. I prepare Pkaïla without the osbana sausage because I have never been able to find it (and haven't had the inclination to make sausages myself).

Because the only time consuming part of preparing this beautiful dish is the spinach confit, I recommend that you prepare a cup or two of the confit and store it, coated with a layer of oil in the refrigerator. You can even freeze some of the confit if you prepare a really large amount. The flavor of Pkaïla, of course, is very different if you prepare it with lamb instead of beef. I would try it both ways, and then decide which you prefer.


Put all the ingredients (cold) in a very large saucepan. Cover with cold water, just to the top of the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat, adjust the temperature so that the mixture is just bubbling, keep uncovered for 15 minutes. Turn the temperature down to a simmer, and cover. Cook slowly for 4-5 hours until the meat is soft. You can salt and pepper the mixture any time after the first hour.

Alternatively, and even better, you can serve this as a T'fina or Sabbath day dish which is cooked slowly over Friday night. Begin the cooking Friday mid-day. Be sure that the mixture is cooking at a slow simmer, and after two hours of simmering, place the pot on a blech (sabbath warming tray), cover with a heavy towel (or use a crock pot), and allow it to cook slowly until Saturday noon.

Serve over couscous with optional extra harissa.

*Harissa is a North African condiment, available in many Middle-Eastern or French specialty shops. It is a mixture of hot peppers, garlic, salt, and usually oil. Occasionally coriander or other herbs are added to the mixture.

Confit D'Épinards

Wash the fresh spinach, dry well, and coarsely chop. Put the spinach in a large frying pan. Heat over a high flame while constantly stirring. Slowly, the spinach will cook down, and the water will evaporate. When the water is all gone, add the oil. The spinach will begin to fry. As the mass decreases in size, and no further steam is escaping, and the color starts to darken, remove from the heat. The spinach should not burn, but cook slowly for about 40 minutes to 1 hour in all.

If you are using frozen spinach, squeeze as much water from the spinach before beginnning. Then proceed as above.

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