LE DINNER EN BLANC

by Balaboosta on September 25, 2013

The Dinner In White

We all know what it means to BYOB. And I’d even heard of BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine).

But BYOTCTCFF?

 

I’ve been a chef for fifteen years, but even that was new to me.

 * * *

Last week, I dined in Bryant Park with four thousand other New Yorkers at the annual Le Diner En Blanc—“The Dinner in White.” It’s a Paris tradition that harks back to the ‘80s; only recently did Le Diner come to New York. As the organizers behind Dinner en Blanc describe it: “Le Diner en Blanc recalls the elegance and glamour of court society, and diners engage one another knowing they are taking part in a truly magical event.”

And magical it was!

For starters, details of the event are kept secret until the very last minute. I received my invitation just days before, along with instructions to dress in white and BMOTCTCFF (bring my own table, chair, tablecloth, candle, flowers and food). Wine was provided.

What a thrill it was to see swarms of people, all cloaked in white, spilling out of the Bryant Park subway stop like so many doves set free from a cage! Marching into the park with our picnic baskets and chairs, we looked like a cult—albeit a hungry one. Imagine a band of picnicking Harikrishnas.

Part of Le Diner’s allure is that you sit with strangers. As I introduced myself to my table-mates, classical music and opera played in the background. Later, once the sun had set and these once strangers had become friends, did the house music pump through the portable speakers and the party begin.

It was an unforgettable night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BALABOOSTA: THE BOOK

by Balaboosta on August 30, 2013

 

Three years ago, when I signed a contract with Artisan Books, my editor, Lia, told me that my cookbook would be published in September 2013.

It sounded like an eternity. 2013? Will my restaurant still be there in 2013? And more importantly…will people still be reading books?

Part of me wondered if the day would ever come…

And now it has. And what an incredible journey it’s been. The book, officially titled Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love, hits the shelves on Tuesday, September 3. And with the release just days away, I can’t help but reflect on what it took to get it here: the tasting and re-tasting (and re-tasting!) of hundreds of recipes, only to see many of them not even make it into the book; the delving into my own past as I explored the connection between my food and my own life story; and the fantastic relationships I’ve built with editor and support team along the way.

I learned so much. Creating a book made me realize what I’m capable of. It also makes me appreciate that none of it—not the book, and not my restaurants—could have happened without the help of others, from my husband and kids to journalists and publishers and my beloved customers who’ve kept my businesses alive.

SALUT FROM PROVENCE

by Balaboosta on August 26, 2013

I’m writing this blog post from the Provence region of France, in a southern town called Puget Ville—the village that my husband Stefan called home for many years. And as I sit here on the front porch, typing, I can’t deny that part of me wants to stay here forever.

Of course, the landscape is beautiful—mountains that tumble into valleys, and beautiful woods that are perfect for hiking. Here and there, wineries dot the lush countryside.

But it’s not just the storybook view that’s drawing me in. It’s the way of life. Here in Puget Ville, people know how to live. There’s a siesta every day from noon until four in the afternoon. That’s half the American workday! Back in New York, meanwhile, you feel guilty if you take more than a 20-minute lunch…

And it’s pretty obvious that in Puget Ville, family comes first. Kids have few toys and clothes. Instead, the outdoors is their playground. And more often than not, their playmates are their parents.

This also happens to be one of my favorite places to cook. I pride myself on my ability to cook anywhere, but there’s something about Puget Ville that brings out the best in my creations. Chicken looks yellower, and smaller—exactly how chicken is supposed to look—and comes off the grill lean and tender. Maybe it’s the air. Or maybe it’s me, a more relaxed me.

As for produce and herbs…no need for Whole Foods here. They grow naturally, everywhere: wild asparagus, figs, apples, lavender, thyme, rosemary—all ripe for the picking. And the farmers markets have the freshest local, seasonal produce harvested that morning.

We Americans (and Israelis) make fun of the French, and some of it is deserved. But there’s a lot we can learn from the French about priorities and what it means to be happy.

À votre santé!

 

CAMPING, MY FAMILY’S WAY

by Balaboosta on August 11, 2013

OK – word association time.

I say “camping trip.” You say …

Campfire
Cookout
S’mores
Burgers
Eggplant
Wait - eggplant?
Yes, eggplant!

It was Liam’s idea. In honor of his 7th birthday, Liam asked me to take him camping. So we headed to the Delaware Water Gap, not even two hours from the City. It was nothing fancy – just a tent, some close friends, and enough food to last us ‘til January.

The weather was perfect for camping: 110 degrees, 90 percent humidity, zero shade. And the mosquitoes. Did I mention the mosquitoes? “Now I know why they call bugs bugs,” Liam explained. “It’s because they won’t stop bugging me.”

Like I said – perfect weather for camping.

For lunch, the kids wanted s’mores. Not just Liam and Mika, but my friend Guy’s kids, who have been living in America for less than three years. Somehow, in their short time in the United States, Guy’s three boys figured out that sleeping outdoors goes hand-in-hand with chocolate-marshmallow sandwiches.

I promised that s’mores would come – later. Meanwhile, Guy (you’ve met him before  – he’s not only a friend, but my Executive Chef at Balaboosta) and I grilled steaks, Asian-style chicken wings, boneless chicken thighs, a medley of tomatoes, pearl onions and forest mushrooms, and some eggplant. All of it exquisite. All of it delicious.

So while eggplant might not be the food that comes to mind when you think of camping, I happen to find it perfect. It’s easy to transport. It’s healthy. It’s easy to grill. And best of all, you really don’t have to do anything to it to make it delicious.

But just in case you want to do a little something to it…you’ll find one of my favorite (and easiest) eggplant recipes below. Good for indoors, and out.

Smoked eggplant with Asian tahini

This Asian tahini was inspired by Ayelet Latovich, my close friend and talented chef.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

2 eggplants
1 cup tahini
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
toasted sesame seeds  

Place eggplants on the grill or on a baking sheet under the broiler. If broiling in oven, make sure to poke the eggplants with a fork a few times. If you don’t, the eggplant will explode.  As they cook, turn the eggplants a few times to make sure all sides get charred. They’re ready after about 20 minutes when the skin completely blackens and becomes very brittle and the flesh inside is very soft (if you press on it, there will be no resistance).

While the eggplant is cooking, prepare the tahini sauce. Mix together the remaining ingredients except for the sesame seeds.

Once the eggplants have cooled enough for handling, use a fork to split them lengthwise. Drizzle with the tahini and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

If you have leftover tahini, it will keep in the refrigerator for 4 days. It’s great on roasted vegetables.

JUST ANOTHER MANIC MONDAY

by Balaboosta on July 31, 2013

Why are Mondays always such…well, Mondays?

This past Monday was no different. There were the usual stresses: Monday’s the day I create the specials for the upcoming week at Balaboosta, so I spend the entire day either in the kitchen or running back and forth to the farmers market.

And then there were the unexpected stresses—namely, that my dishwasher up and quit out of the blue. “Why’d he quit?” Stefan asked. And I’m like, how the hell should I know”? Maybe his friend scored him a job washing dishes somewhere else. Or he was on vacation and never intended to stay that long to begin with.
Or…maybe he’s just sick of washing dishes!

In any case—

By the time we got home, Stef and I were in no mood to cook an elaborate family dinner. So it became one of those nights where I simply raided the kitchen in the hopes of throwing together whatever I could—in this case, three bunches of kale in the refrigerator and some quinoa pasta in the cabinet.

So we whipped up kale pesto with cooked quinoa pasta. The verdict: A+ for flavors, F for texture—the mixture came out grainy, weird, and much too chewy for my taste. (To my chagrin, my children loved it—which means their palates aren’t nearly as developed as I’d hoped.)

There’s a lesson here: some ingredients are meant to stay the way God (or the farmers, if you’re an atheist) made them. In other words, quinoa isn’t meant to be processed into pasta. Which is why, down below, I’ve given you a recipe for a wonderful quinoa salad—just the way God/Buddha/Allah/your local organic farmer intended:

Quinoa kale salad

2 cups uncooked quinoa
⅓ cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
⅔ cup cilantro, chopped
4 ½ cups (3/4 pound) kale, chopped
⅓ cup toasted sliced almonds,
½ teaspoon shallot, chopped
Lemon zest from one lemon
2-3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 -3 teaspoons salt

Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Add quinoa and cook for exactly 12 minutes. Drain and rinse the quinoa in very cold water. Fluff the quinoa with a fork.

Mix quinoa with the remaining ingredients. Taste for salt and lemon juice.

4TH OF JULY

by Balaboosta on July 3, 2013

People always ask me if I would ever go back to live in Israel, my homeland.

This question used to weigh on me during my first few years in NYC. This is no longer the case. Truth be told, it is not easy to be an immigrant. You live away from your culture, your family and your friends. But after almost 15 years here, married to a French / American man, plus two kids who were born here – things are getting more comfortable. Add two siblings who now live here, an extremely satisfying career and many close friends, and I now feel very much at home.

No day makes me feel at home like the 4th of July: people celebrating at the parks, carrying the cooler in one hand and the mini grill in the other. Families and friends coming together to enjoy the outdoors, kids running on the grass and the aromatic smoky smells of meats and vegetables.

Some of my best memories are the potatoes wrapped in foil, slow cooking on the charcoal surface and the long thin kebabs that my aunt Hannah used to make us – treated with love to perfection.

TAHINI AND PINE NUTS KEBABS
2 pounds ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup raw tahini
⅓ cup finely chopped parsley
⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Add all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix really well with your hands. Shape the ground beef mixture into 2-inch ovals and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

When the grill is fired up, place the meat kebabs and grill them until good and charred on each side, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8

SHAKSHUKA DAY

by Balaboosta on May 25, 2013

The Memorial Day Weekend has finally arrived! Some of us are waiting for a BBQ invitation, some of us will play the host, and some of us will just pray for decent weather, so I decided to give you an alternative fun option.

Shakshuka is an easy Israeli brunch dish that everyone loves: eggs cooked in an aromatic tomato sauce, served with fresh bread to mop up the sauce. In the following recipe, I included some fresh spinach, adding some color and vitamins to the sizzling skillet.

I grew up on this dish, and while my mother was the unrivaled household cook, this one was my dad’s specialty and one of a few dishes he insisted on making for us. Making Shakshuka is a great opportunity to be creative: switch the red bell pepper to green or poblano, add kale or Swiss chard instead of spinach, or even add a merguez sausage or chorizo for a smoky flavor to remind you that it’s Memorial Day after all.

Enjoy!

SHAKSHUKA

Ingredients (serves 4)

8 large eggs
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large jalapeño, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup of fresh spinach
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons kosher salt
½ tablespoon sweet Spanish paprika
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground caraway
4 tablespoons Canola oil, for frying

Method:

Heat the oil in a large deep pan. Sauté the onions until translucent and then add the bell peppers and jalapeño and cook on a medium heat just until softened (about 10 minutes). Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and sauté for another 3 minutes.

Slowly pour in the tomatoes. Next stir in all the spices and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Place the spinach on top, and break the eggs, one by one, inside with enough space in between, arranging the yolks around the pan.

Cover the pan and cooked for about 5 minutes on a low temperature, or until the egg whites set.

Family Meal

by Balaboosta on February 10, 2013

I’ve worked in a kitchen for over 15 years. It all began in Israel, a very high-end restaurant called Keren that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. When I left Israel for the States I arrived with the expectation to only stay for 3-6 months as an intern. I always say that God is laughing while we busy ourselves making plans for the future, because sure enough I haven’t left since I landed 14 years ago and I have no intention of moving back.

Well I’m still here and what I’ve learned working in restaurants has really shaped who I am today. Being a cook is hard work, it’s taxing on your emotions and body. Seldom are the rewards when you feel like a robot, repeating the same tasks over and over again under the watchful and demanding eye of an egotistical crazed chef. Not to mention the bore in cooking another persons ideas and tastes, with no room for your own creativity. You can sometimes work a 70-hour week and only 10 hours in the chef makes one little comment that makes you just feel so small and want to give in. At the end of it all there is a pitiful amount of money to show for the overtime and exhaustion.

When I became a chef and opened my own restaurant it was really important to me to be different. I mean I’m not saying I’m not totally crazy sometimes and an ego maniac that is full of myself, but at the end of the day, I care because I know what it’s like to be a line cook in New York City. And so, at the beginning of every year I close the restaurant and switch roles, I host my cooks in my home in Brooklyn and I cook a meal for them. It is the real deal family meal. I know how hard they work all year for me, and this way we get to see each other not just as boss and employees, but as friends, and me as a mother, a wife and a decent cook. Not to toot my own horn, but I used to be called the Queen of family meal. I think I still live up to that name, and perhaps you will agree.

To begin we had spicy guacamole and crab cake sliders with mayo and srirarcha sauce. For the main meal we had Persian Rice, Pee Wee potatoes and pearl onions, a warm leek salad, pickled fried eggplant with dill and garlic vinegar, and chirchi; a pumpkin carrot sauce that is mashed with harissa and lemon. But the centerpiece was a huge roasted leg of lamb that I marinated for 24 hours with yogurt, pomegranate, garlic and herbs and then roasted for 4 hours in the oven. It was so succulent and meaty. To end the meal I served a 50 layer crepe cake studded with candied pecans, smothered with nutella, and topped with a chocolate ganache.

Roast Lamb with Yogurt and Pomagranate Juice

Ingredients:

1 leg of lamb, bone in (about 6 to 8 pounds)
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
3 cups Pom juice, reduced on low heat to the amount of 1 cup
8 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 table spoon chopped thyme leaves
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

  • Mix all the ingredients together and rub it all over the lamb with your hands. Marinate in the refrigerator over night. Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Place the lamb in a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to cook for about 2 hours more for medium-rare, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast is 145 degrees F to 150 degrees F. Remove lamb from pan and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Enjoy!

My Own Potato Pancake

by Balaboosta on December 13, 2012

This past Monday Balaboosta participated in the Fourth Annual Latke Festival presented by Edible Brooklyn and Great Performances. More than three hundred New Yorkers piled into BAM theatre to satiate an eager holiday appetite.

There, 17 restaurants and food vendors pulled out all the stops to transform the classic greasy spud into a bite more memorable. Of the participating restaurants were Fatty Cue’ who served up a Latke of Potato, Apple, Daikon Latke with Seasoned Ricotta & Smoked Crab as well as Micah Fredman who plated a beautiful Yucca and sweet potato latke with an apple plaintain sorbet, queso fresco, pickled onion, cilantro and spicy green hot sauce. Yes, this would be a close competition with so many talented chefs bringing their A game.

But, please, leave it to the Balaboosta in the room to bang out the winning Hannukkah treat. That’s right, I won! Maybe it was the words of a grammar school teacher ringing in my ear telling me I had no potential and an image of her standing giant above me one hand on hip the other pointing in my face. Or my childhood inability to loose board games gracefully. No matter, the competitive fire in my belly has only grown with me and the minute I walked into BAM I knew I had to win. Though, I must express that I have nourished that fire just like I have raised my own children: with respect for the world, a capacity for thankfulness, and knowing that the only real win is a fair and honest one. And this time the judges agreed with me.

For all of you who are drooling to taste success please enjoy my winning Latke recipe:

For the Latke:

1 cup grated potato
1 cup grated yams
1 cup grated carrot
1.5 cups grated onion, squeezed from the juices
.5 cups grated granny smith apple
1 egg
1 table spoon chopped thyme leaves
4 tablespoons AP flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of sugar
canola oil
  • Mix all the above ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Heat up a saute pan with 1/2″ of oil. When the oil is hot (around 370 degrees F) create 2″ patties from the mixture and fry on both sides until they are golden brown.
For the yogurt sauce:

  • Simply mix chopped preserved lemons with enough honey to balance out the bitterness. Gently folk in plain yogurt until you have a homogenous mixture. You can add tumeric for color if you wish. Season with salt and pepper. Dollop on your lovely little latkes and let the holiday feasting begin!

Humbly yours,
Einat

My Kind Of Guy

by Balaboosta on October 17, 2012


Real friends are priceless. I learned that the hard way.

I’m surrounded by many unique people that I adore and cherish but there is that friend who always makes me feel worthy, special and of course, patting my ego the way I like before I was even a chef.

I met Guy in culinary school in Israel 15 years ago. His dark, sarcastic humor was exactly what I always needed to get by. He was there for me at my first wedding, through my divorce, my struggles and my fairy tale with Stefan.

And like a really good friend he was standing by me and always being supportive. Never attempting to change me or judging me.

In my travels to India I went to a palm reader in the Ragastan region; a well respected guru-like person. He told me many encouraging things but also told me that people get tired of me pretty quickly. I remember running all of my short-term relationships in my head and I started to get worried. When I told that to Guy he said wisely “Einat, you are like cilantro. When people meet you they can hate you or love you. If they love you, they will love you forever.” That was the most comforting thing someone has ever said to me.


After so many years of trying to recruit him to New York, I finally drugged Guy, his beautiful wife and their three boys to the States. We are working side by side at Balaboosta, growing together professionally and mentally just as really good friends meant to be.

Here is one of my favorite recipes from him.

Ingredients:

For the fish
3 tablespoons canola oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium-sized jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of harissa (the best one is from Taïm, in my unbiased opinion, but if this is not possible you can use a mixture of spices to give the sauce some kick. See recipe below. )
one 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes (I usually get the organic fire-roasted stuff)
kosher salt
ground black pepper
4-6 fillets of grouper (you can also use bass, red snapper, halibut, or tilapia)
For the asparagus salad
3 large asparagus spears
freshly squeezed lemon juice
olive oil
kosher salt
ground black pepper
feta cheese (optional)
  1. Heat the canola oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute just until golden brown. Next add the jalapeño and saute for another minute. Add the harissa and the entire can of diced tomatoes to the skillet and give it a good stir. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.
  2. While the tomato sauce is cooking, you can begin preparing the asparagus salad. Use a vegetable peeler and carefully slice the asparagus into thin long strips, starting from the base then sliding the peeler all the way to the tip. Keep the shaved asparagus in cold water until ready to use. Right before serving, remove the asparagus from the water and transfer them into a mixing bowl. Give the lemon a great big squeeze right over the mixing bowl then add a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle in salt and pepper then lightly toss together to coat evenly.
  3. When the sauce is ready, remove from the heat and cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Keep the sauce warm until ready to use.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat until nice and hot, about 7-10 minutes. Pat the fish dry with a few sheets of paper towels then season the fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet then gently place the fillet skin-side down. Sear the fillets in small batches to keep the oil hot. When the skin is nice and crispy, about 3 minutes, flip them over and cook for another minute or so. Remove the fillet from the skillet and place them on a few sheets of paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
  5. Meanwhile ladle a generous portion of tomato sauce at the bottom of a shallow dish and place the seared fish fillets right over it. Top it all off with the shaved asparagus salad and some crumbled feta cheese, if you’re up for it.
Spice blend (this is not a harissa recipe but a mix of spices that will still get the point across):

2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground caraway
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
  1. Mix it all together and use this as a substitution for the harissa.

Tahini Cookies with Rosemary – Happy Mother’s Day!

by Balaboosta on May 13, 2012


My 5-year-old son Liam constantly encourages me to make cookies for him ever since he got a ninja-shaped cookie cutter. And like any normal kid, he had to use them immediately.

I never considered myself as a great pastry chef. Baking requires precision, patience, organization, and respect for the scientific laws of cooking—which I clearly hold non of the above. I’m more of a free spirit and experimenting without borders, a REBEL, if you will.

For years I’ve been avoiding doing pastries and baking too much but lately I managed to achieve a few successful batches in the oven. So maybe I’m beginning to change my mind about my ability. Not to sound arrogant or anything but with experience, time, and an open mind you just naturally grow. And here is the proof.

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup tahini paste
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl using an electric stand mixer (if you don’t have one, you can use a wooden spoon). Next add the tahini and honey.
  2. Gradually add the flour, then baking powder and salt to the bowl and mix over low speed. Add the chopped rosemary just until incorporated.
  3. Remove the cookie dough from the bowl and divide in half. Roll each one into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and freeze for 2-3 hours (or leave them in the freezer until ready to use).
  4. Preheat oven 350˚
  5. Remove the cookie dough from the freezer and cut slices about 1/2-inch thick. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Place cookies on a cooling rack and cool completely. Make sure you store them in an airtight container at room temperature but I don’t think you’ll have too many leftovers!
  7. Variations: Top each cookie with an almond or sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.

Pass It Over

by Balaboosta on April 11, 2012

So I think we just gave birth to a new tradition at Balaboosta. We hosted a non-traditional Seder thanks to my brilliant friend Naama Shefi, an Israeli food specialist, who made it all happen. Along with Naama’s genius idea, I teamed up with two wonderful chefs, Alex Raij and Fany Gerson.

The whole idea was to create a Seder the way I do in my own house with family, friends and Jewish Sephardic food. It was a way for us to celebrate spring and freedom (our NY version of freedom is to escape from our apartments to less freezing weather).

The evening began with Dida Peled and Tal Ronen, a jazz singer and bass player, who created their own amazing rendition of the Hagada songs.

Our guests began to arrive buzzing with happiness and excitement as we greeted them with pomegranate rose and cardamom fizz drinks.

As soon as everyone had been escorted to their seats, the feast commenced.

For the salad courses we served:

- beet salad & candied walnuts
- celery salad with citrus & mint
- egg schnitzel with saffron aioli
- plus a delicious haroset that Alex made

And this was just the beginning…

We presented a twist to the classic matzo ball soup — a sort of Persian-style dumpling made with ground chicken, chickpeas and aromatic spices floating in a soup of chicken and vegetables then garnished with grilled ramps.

We also concocted a gefilte wannabe – a Moroccan fish cake in a spicy tomato soup. I think after this it will be more likely that the gefilte will wannabe the Morrocan fish because it was AH-MAZING!

Alex created a mouthwatering spring lamb with grilled spring onions, horseradish, chimichurri and date paste. Let me just say, WOW!

For the dessert course Fany made a satisfyingly sweet meringue with passion fruit cream and several Passover kosher candies.

Of course we didn’t forget about the Aficoman, a blessed matzo, which is then hidden for all the kids to find. But in this non-traditional Seder, the adults searched high and low for the Aficoman and the winner walked away with a prize of one big night out in NYC.

Ever since we hosted this great new Balaboosta tradition, we’ve had several patrons request for the awesome gelfite wannabe recipe and I’d love to make them happy so here it is!

Ingredients (for the fish cake):

1 pound tilapia, boned and skinned
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup matzo meal or panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt and ground black pepper
For the fish cake:
  1. Puree the fish in a food processor. Scrape the fish into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly and make fish cakes about two inches in diameter.
  2. Heat canola oil in a large skillet and fry the fish cakes until lightly golden. Drain them on a few sheets of paper towels and set aside until ready to serve with the tomato sauce.
Ingredients (for the tomato sauce):

1/4 cup canola oil
10 garlic cloves sliced thinly
2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons sweet spanish paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground caraway
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
one 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed in a food processor
salt and ground black pepper
For the tomato sauce:
  1. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat and sauté garlic and jalapeño until soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes.
  2. Add the paprika, cumin, caraway, and cayenne to the pan. Saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and bring to a rapid simmer then turn the heat to low. Cook over low heat and stir occasionally until the flavors meld, about 25 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, pour a few ladles of the sauce over the fish cakes and devour immediately.

Paradise Ceviche

by Balaboosta on December 23, 2011


We went to Costa Rica this month with Liam and Mika for a 10-day retreat. And for a little taste of adventure, we decided to take them on a zipline canopy tour. Even at age 3, I had so much faith in my fearless daughter that I was certain she would go with it.

We arrived at the booth and 3 professional guys were waiting for us. Liam couldn’t wait to get his gear on when Mika started screaming. She refused to let them put the harness on her. We tried several methods to convince her to put on the gear but nothing worked. So while Stef and Liam went on the zipline, I stayed behind with Mika (much later on, she explained to me that she was not afraid of the zipline but of the harness that would make her pants dirty. A true New York princess!).

Mika and I headed down to the beach where locals go for the freshest products at the open-air fish market. And as I always manage to find some friends to cook for here during Shabbat dinner, I decided right there to buy some fish. After I picked out my catch of the day, I asked the fisherman if I could scale and fillet it right then and there. It’s been a long time since I’ve touched fish that way – to get so smelly with scales in your hair, I realized how much I missed it.

The fish fillets turned out perfectly and I saw in his fisherman eyes a prospective job offering.
Of course some of this beautifully fresh fish had to go into ceviche and with some limited ingredients, it became wonderful.

But since I know you can probably get a few more items than I had on hand in Costa Rica, I will pass on to you one of my favorite recipes from Balaboosta.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. white fish (fluke, red snapper, bass or hamachi)
1 kohlrabi
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp cilantro, thinly sliced
1/2 red chili, seeded and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp red onion, thinly sliced
salt to taste
  1. Cut fish on the bias and then into small cubes. Keep cold and set aside.
  2. Slice kohlrabi in round, paper-thin slice. Soak them in a bowl with a water, a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine lime juice and a pinch of sugar. Add fish pieces, red onion, red chili and cilantro. Toss to coat thoroughly and add salt to taste.
  4. To serve, place one round of kohlrabi, place a spoonful of ceviche and top with another slice of kohlrabi. At the restaurant, we like to add some brightly colored micro greens and a drizzle of cilantro oil for a nicer presentation. You can also take one slice of kohlrabi, place a spoonful of ceviche and roll it up like a taquito.

Stuffed Lady

by Balaboosta on October 7, 2011

One week later and my chiseled bikini bod has yet to recover from our Rosh Hashanah dinner. Like most gatherings, there is always too much food and by the time the entrées arrive, regret starts creeping up.

So this year on the menu we feasted on gefilte fish, spicy Moroccan fish, eggplant avocado salad, Asian cabbage salad, fennel salad, green leaves salad, matbucha (spicy tomato salsa) and of course, our legendary hummus. And these were just for appetizers!

Our main courses included couscous (the real deal), roasted lamb, chicken with olives and lemon and my all-time favorite, mafrum (a North African dish of stuffed potatoes with meat in tomato sauce).

Of course let’s not forget about dessert. We had at least 6 non-dairy delights like chocolate meringue mousse, stuffed lady apples, honey cake and a few others that I can’t even recall since I damn nearly passed out from food overdose.

This week marked the days of forgiveness that led up to today, Yom Kippur – the judgment day. I’ll probably call some of my friends and colleagues asking for forgiveness from all the tactless verbal diarrhea that may or may not have slipped from my mouth.

Until then, please accept this peaceful offering of stuffed lady apples topped with an Italian meringue.

Ingredients:

4-6 lady apples (depending on their size)
2/3 cup golden raisins (black currants work perfectly too!)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp calvados or brandy liqueur
1 tsp ground cinnamon
For the meringue topping:
3 egg whites
1 cup white granulated sugar
3 Tbsp cold water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Trim the tops and scoop out the center of the apples, leaving the bottom intact. Place apples in an ovenproof dish or pan. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, toss together raisins, walnuts, honey, liqueur and cinnamon.
  4. Using a small spoon, fill each apple with the raisin mixture. Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a simmer. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cover pan and bring to a rolling boil or until your candy thermometer reads 234 degrees.
  6. While the sugar syrup is heating up, whip egg whites at medium speed in a large metal bowl until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. Keep whisking at low speed.
  7. Once the sugar has reached the proper temperature, slowly, slowly drizzle in the hot sugar mixture into the bowl of egg whites while whisking on low speed. Avoid drizzling the sugar syrup into the whisk!
  8. Gradually increase the speed of your mixer to high and keep whipping the meringue until shiny, stiff peaks form.
  9. To serve, top each warm apple with a dollop of meringue (you can use a spoon or pipe it on to be fancy), and use a torch to give the meringue a dramatic brûlée presentation.

Guilt Trip

by Balaboosta on August 30, 2011

My kids are at Balaboosta almost once a week, usually on the day that Stefan and I are both working together. So last Tuesday their nanny, Ahoova, brought them to the restaurant. They joined me at the big round table during the staff family meal and I fed Liam and Mika. We hung out together for a while and when it was finally time for me to kiss them goodbye, Liam started whining and asking me to come back home. Then, like a bolt of lightning, he struck me with “I don’t want you to cook anymore!” My heart broke into a million pieces.

I took Liam aside and sat him down on one of the benches in front of the restaurant. “Let’s play the Pretend Game,” and I had him close his eyes very tightly. I painted a very different picture of our lives for him. A life where I am no longer cooking.

I started without his brand new bike, and then only some of his favorite superhero toys all crammed into a much tinier bedroom. Then I changed his diet from sashimi to fish sticks (not that there’s anything even wrong with fish sticks but Liam has the palate of a Top Chef). I told him he would be going to a new school, different from all of his friends. And then I told him, like a bolt of lightning, “Mommy would be a raging bitch because she wouldn’t be doing what she loved.” Okay, maybe I changed a few words around but I think I made my point clear. Though I think I already had him at “You wouldn’t have your brand new bike.”

This is never a walk in the park. It’s always a juggling act between career and family. Stef and I work our asses off to provide our kids with a comfortable life. So every now and then, I think we both deserve a little Sex on the Beach…

Ingredients:

2 oz pomegranate juice (the original recipe calls for cranberry juice but this is my sexier version)
2 oz orange juice
1 1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz peach schnapps
  1. Combine all ingredients and pour over ice.

Cloudy with a Chance of Rice Balls

by Balaboosta on August 24, 2011


It’s drop dead in the middle of August and the weather is teasing us. Eighty degrees and thunderstorms? Seriously? For a week or two it has been pouring rain. On and off. What a bummer!

I started thinking about my mom. Oh the things she would cook at the first sign of autumn, when the first drop of rain hits the ground. She used to make all kinds of stew and mushy stuff that I used to hate as a child, learned to love as a grown-up and adore as a chef.

So I called my sister Dorit a few days ago, right before I called my mom to have her version of gondi beranzi, balls of rice and meat stuffed with dried fruit and floating on a sea of chicken soup.

Obviously Dorit’s recipe was totally different from mom’s, with a little more innovation. And then I called my mom and I created mine.

Ingredients:

For the Rice and Meat Balls:
1 cup uncooked rice, soaked in cold water with a tablespoon of salt for 30 minutes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1/3 cup chopped tarragon and parsley (combined)
3-4 pieces each of prunes and dried apricots, roughly chopped
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt & pepper to taste
  1. Make little balls from the chopped dried fruits. Set aside.
  2. Drain and rinse thoroughly the soaked rice.
  3. In a large bowl, combine rinsed rice, ground beef, tarragon, parsley, cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper.
  4. Make little ping pong-sized balls of the rice mixture and stuff them with with a tiny ball of dried fruit in each one. Keep refrigerated until ready to combine with the soup.
Ingredients:

For the Chicken Soup:
1 lb. bone-in chicken pieces
1 yellow onion, large dice
1 carrot, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 branch celery, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 potatoes, cut in large chunks
3 quart cold water
3 Persian Limes (if you can’t get your hands on these special dried limes, substitute by adding the juice of 1 lemon and its rind)
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste
canola oil
  1. Heat a large pot with canola oil. Lightly brown chicken pieces then add the onions. Saute until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the carrots and potatoes. Saute for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the water along with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor to your preference.
  4. Slowly drop in the little balls of yumminess and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

Kanafeh For My Sweet Tooth

by Balaboosta on August 23, 2011


It’s a constant struggle for me to balance the sweets that I’m consuming and with this sweet tooth of mine, it’s pretty damn difficult. But over the years I’ve managed to reduce my candy consumption, drinking coffee without sugar and closing my eyes ever so tightly each time I pass by a chocolate shop.

With all that being said, I firmly believe that I’d rather die than not have any sweets at all. It would just be cruel and unusual punishment.

So here is one of my indulgences – kanafeh. It is a Middle Eastern dessert made with kataif (shredded filo dough) stuffed with cheese and soaked with sugar syrup. The cheese we normally use in the Middle East is made from sheep or goat. My own spin to this kanafeh is with ricotta cheese.

Ingredients:

Kataif:
8-9 ounces kataif
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Cheese Filling:
3/4 cup whole milk
4 Tbsp semolina
1 cup ricotta
zest from half an orange
Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2-3 drops of rose water
Garnish:
Roughly chopped pistachios
  1. In a large bowl, use your fingers to gently toss in the powdered sugar.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter over the kataif and gently toss with your fingers. Cover bowl with a moist towel and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow the flavors to infuse. Set aside.
  4. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk just until small bubbles appear at the surface.
  5. Slowly stir in the semolina. Keep stirring until the mixture slightly thickens. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  6. Stir in the ricotta and orange zest to the milk mixture. Set aside.

To Assemble Kanafeh:

There are two methods -
  1. Easy Way: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a half sheet pan. Divide the kataif into two equal parts and spread the first half evenly to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Spread the cheese mixture over the entire pan and top with the remaining kataif (just pretend you’re making a sandwich!). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cut into individual serving size squares, top with syrup and garnish with pistachios.
  2. My Way: Almost exactly the same except I mold them into circular individual portions.
Suggestion:
  1. You can also add either cardamom, cinnamon, orange peel or clove (OR all of them) to the syrup. I also like to blend in a few berries for the red color.

Summertime Cravings

by Balaboosta on August 11, 2011

It’s a perfectly sunny day and a scorching 110 degrees. I’m sprawled out on the beach in Tel Aviv wearing nothing but my itty bitty size one Brazilian bikini and a flawless tan. I squint towards the horizon and appearing like a mirage in the dessert, I saw a tall, gorgeous, young man with chiseled abs walking towards me. He flashed me his million dollar smile.

“Wow!” I thought to myself, “All these grueling workouts at the gym totally paid off.” At this exact moment, all those intensive training sessions and calorie-counting were completely worth it. And then I started entertaining the notion of flirting with this handsome young thing walking in my direction. How far can a married woman flirt without feeling guilty? As he’s coming closer and closer, his image becomes more clear. He’s devouring a huge piece of watermelon and his body is glistening from the river of juices dripping from his mouth…

Einat, Einat. Einat! Time to wake up, babe.

I awoke this morning sprawled out in our Brooklyn loft wearing something more similar to a Hawaiian muumuu rather than a Brazilian bikini wedged between my cheeks. I did have a gym session this morning and I made futile attempts at counting calories but this bikini nonsense is still a few pounds short of reality. As for this dreamy “mirage”, well, I have my husband.

And this succulent watermelon? I just came up with a simple salad to satiate my cravings. And believe me, I don’t feel guilty at all for devouring this dish.

I always love sweet-salty flavor combinations and the options are endless. One of my favorites is juicy watermelon, mixed w/ black olives, thin slices of red onions, feta cheese, a few pieces of mint leaves tossed with arugula and a refreshing splash of white balsamic vinaigrette.

Ingredients (White Balsamic Vinaigrette):

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
3 tsp kosher salt
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together white balsamic vinegar and honey until smooth.
  2. While whisking the vinegar/honey mixture, slowly add in the extra virgin olive oil in a thin stream. Keep whisking until an emulsion is formed.
  3. Whisk in the salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference. Keep vinaigrette refrigerated when not in use.

A Taste of Home

by Balaboosta on August 5, 2011

My month long summer trip to Israel has come to a close. It has been such a long time since we all had the chance to spend so much quality time as a family. We had such an amazing time together but now I think I need another vacation after this vacation. Minus the kids. Some of my girlfriends who have become full-time moms are always talking about how difficult it is. And now I finally understand.

Don’t get me wrong. BEING A FULL-TIME MOM IS A PROFESSION. After all, I’m having fun and I’m learning. My kids are angels and they make me laugh. Some of the things that come out of Liam’s mouth are hilarious! Yesterday he told me that he would love to move to Israel because there are no doctors there (and believe me, he’s had way more encounters with doctors than most children his age). He said that the only doctors we have in Israel are the food doctors like Dr. Shakshuka (north African food), Dr. Lek (ice cream) and Dr. Hummus.

I can take my kids to any restaurant and most of the time we don’t even need coloring books or distractions to get them to sit quietly. Usually, food will do the trick. And lucky for me, they are not picky eaters. Unless of course it is considered picky each time Liam orders his steak medium rare. And Mika will eat any soup in front of her, mostly because I think she enjoys the sipping noises.

During our last week in Israel, we went to Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa, not for his famous shakshouka, but more for his equally delicious couscous and meats. We started with small salads and when the hummus arrived, we were all amazed at how good it was. Even the toughest 4-year-old food critic, Liam, said it was better than he expected.

You always get the most surprises when you least expect it.

Hummus for us is like wine to the French (trust me, I see my husband drinking his every night). It’s part of almost every dinner. It can be a side dish, a spread, filling or sometimes, the entire meal itself. Since this Mediterranean trend has made its debut stateside, you can find it virtually everywhere. It’s a must to share a great recipe for hummus. Here is mine…

Ingredients:

4 cup canned chickpeas
1-2 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  freshly ground pepper (optional)
  1. Under cold running water, rinse canned chickpeas and drain well.
  2. In a food processor combine chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, water, roasted garlic, salt and cumin. While mixing, slowly add in the olive oil. Add more for a creamier consistency.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings. More salt, pepper or cumin as desired.
  4. To serve, place a big heap of hummus in the center of a bowl/plate and swirl a large spoon to create a well in the middle. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. You can also add chickpeas seasoned with cumin and paprika then tossed in a little bit of olive oil for garnish. Serve with warm pita and za’atar.

The Pickles Story

by Balaboosta on July 21, 2011

My mother is a hard working woman who raised 3 kids and built her own business without missing a beat to run the perfect household. Of course this balancing act would sometimes cause her mood to change drastically and her face can go sour in a split second. Whenever this happens my father, with a sinister grin, would suggest to my mother to sell lemon or pickles at the market.

Growing up in Israel, pickles were a staple for every meal (okay, maybe we skipped it for breakfast). Sweet, sour and salty were flavor combinations that  was the signature of my mother’s style of cooking. Extra soft fruit were destined  to be confiture and veggies were sentenced to pickle jars. Only on very rare occasions did my mother make exceptions.

So here I dedicate my first blog to my mom, the first balaboosta in my life, wishing her more sweet days than sour.

Ingredients (pickling base):

1 1/2 cup white vinegar
2 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
  1. Bring all ingredients to a boil. Remove from heat and fill jars with desired vegetables and pickling base. Best served after a few days in the refrigerator.

Playtime with Pickles:

cherry tomatoes with dill & garlic
red onions with clove, star anise, cinnamon & red beets (for color)
baby eggplant with nigella seeds or coriander seeds & mint
white cabbage with curry powder, caraway & garlic
mushrooms with a splash of mirin, cilantro, cumin seeds & chili flakes
  1. The possibilities are endless so knock yourself out!