Tag Archives: Mediterranean

Two for Tuesday: Israeli Cookbooks

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I love Mediterranean food.  It’s so healthy and delicious.  So I was intrigued by two cookbooks that came out this past year on Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine, primarily Israeli, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and Balaboosta by Einat Admony.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Jerusalem is a great cookbook with traditional as well as contemporary dishes from the varied cultures that make up the title city.  The authors, who are Israeli and Palestinian, respectively, while sensitive to the tensions in the area, choose to focus on the food–the richness that all those cultures bring to the cuisine.  As many writers and chefs would agree, food is a binding agent; however, it can also separate people when cultures disagree on who created a popular dish.  Rather than debate issues, Jerusalem celebrates the cuisine.  The authors note that there are some food elements that are crosscultural in the area, such as chopped salad, stuffed vegetables with rice, rice and meat, meat and pickled vegetables, olive oil, lemon juice, olives and baked cheese pastries.  But they mention that the cuisines of the area are very diverse and different, and their focus in the book is on foods that they grew up with and what they like to cook themselves.

The book has some history on the area and explains in more detail some aspects of cooking like what za’atar is and how it is used.  There are recipes for more familiar dishes like fattoush, hummus, tabbouleh and falafel.  Some recipes that sound amazing to me are sabih, an eggplant dish brought by Iraqi Jews.  The minty kohlrabi salad with Greek yogurt and sumac sounds wonderful.  Pureed beets with yogurt and za’atar would be a great dip for some pita bread!  There’s a recipe for shakshuka, the poached eggs in tomato sauce dish that reminds me of a similar dish my Italian grandma made.  I’m intrigued by the pasta cooked in hot yogurt sauce, as in the conchiglie with yogurt, peas and chile.  This book is great for vegetarians as well, as there are so many meat-free dishes.

Balaboosta by Einat Admony

Balaboosta by Einat Admony, on the other hand, isn’t just about food but more about a way of life.  A balaboosta is a Yiddish word for a housewife, but not just any housewife.  According to Admony, a balaboosta “made sure her table was crowded not just with food but also with laughter.”  She was the nurturing woman who cooked, cleaned and cared for her family.  Admony is a wife, mother and professional chef with successful restaurants Balaboosta, Taim and Bar Bolonat.  Not only is she all of these things, she is one cool lady and as Wendy Williams would say, a friend in my head!  Her favorite comfort food is a jelly doughnut.  Hello!  We would so be BFF. 

Her book is divided into chapters that cover all the things a balaboosta needs to know.  There are dinner party dishes, recipes for kids, quick meals, romantic foods, comforting dishes, outdoor party recipes and healthier options.  She is too funny when she talks about trying to lose weight.  She says she took pills, did the cabbage soup diet, the master cleanse, boxing  and something called Zerona that she said was like “being fondled by an octopus that shoots fat-melting lasers into your flab.”  Ultimately, she says that she doesn’t want to give up her love of cooking and eating.  Yay!  Enjoying life is part of being a balaboosta.  Sign me up!

There are so many wonderful recipes in this book.  While Admony’s parents are from Yemen and Iran, she focuses on all Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine.  She has her version of shakshuka, which I’ve had at her restaurant Balaboosta.  There’s a cauliflower dish called “cauliflower everyone loves” that looks like a delectable crispy fried cauliflower.  I have a sweet tooth, so I love her homemade kit kat made with Nutella and corn flakes. OMG.  The coconutty milk chocolate popcorn may be in the kids’ section but it’s for kids of all ages!  I like the ricotta, pine nut and honey bread pudding with some Italian elements in there.  She includes one of her mom’s recipes, rice stew.  She says that it represents the changing relationship she and her mother have had.  She substitutes chicken neck in her mom’s version with chicken wings.  Funny–my mom loves chicken neck too.  The Palestinian Arab dish, sinaya, with layered tahini and ground meat, looks and sounds amazing.  I love, love, love labne and the fried olives with labne look delish.

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Weekend Whets 8/23

Lobster Bake Party, Sundays, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Hotel Chantelle, 92 Ludlow Street, Lower East Side:  A weekly event through the summer. $29.92 per person for 1 whole Maine lobster, steamed little neck clams, baked red russet potatoes and corn on cob.

Blues BBQ, Saturday, August 24, 2013, 2 p.m., Hudson River Park:  Blues musicians along with Brother Jimmy’s and Dinosaur BBQ.

La Toscana nel Mondo Brinda Per Arcobalena D’Estate, Saturday, August 24, 2013, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Per Lei, Upper East Side, Manhattan:  Celebrate Tuscany’s art, music, theatre, food, history, nature, and tourism. Tuscan wines will be offered at the cash bar with complimentary appetizers, along with live performances.  For those who have an interest in  Tuscany to meet one another and join the Tuscan Association of New York. Please call for more information.  RSVP by August 21st. Space is limited.  tuscanassociationnewyork@gmail.com

Bluestockings Food Justice Reading Group, Sunday, August 25, 2013, 5 p.m., Bluestockings, Lower East Side:  Group that explores the role of food on the environment, labor and health.  This month’s reading is Hungry for Change by AH Akhram Lodhi and Revolution at the Table by Harvey Levenstein

A Night in the Mediterranean, Monday, August 26, 2013, 5:30 p.m. or 8:30p.m., Murray’s Cheese, Bleecker Street, West Village:  A celebration of feta with other Greek courses, including feta ice cream!  Tickets $60.

SOMM VIP Screening, Monday, August 26, 2013, 7:30 p.m., The Rooftop at The NoMad Hotel, Flatiron, Manhattan:  Reception featuring Vallin Wines along with Fried Chicken, Popcorn and Canapés from the NoMad and movie screening.  Tickets $65.

Bedford + Bowery Bazaar, Hester Street Fair, Saturday, August 31, 2013, noon to 10 p.m., Hester and Essex Streets, Lower East Side, Manhattan:  North Brooklyn vendors showcased at Hester Street Fair.

Ultimate BBQ Bash Southampton Summer 2013, Saturday, August, 31, 2013, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Southampton Historical Museum, Southampton, NY:  Say goodbye to summer with a bbq, desserts, wine tasting and complimentary beer.  Live music and a DJ will entertain.  Tickets $60-$110.

Vendy Awards, Saturday, September 7, 2013:  Visit site to see list of nominees and how to buy tickets.

LongHouse Food Revival, Saturday, September 7, 2013, and Sunday, September 8, 2013, LongHouse Barn, 83 Steward Road, Berne, New York:  Thought leaders in food gather to discuss how food stories are told.

Taste Talks, Saturday, September 14, 2013 and Sunday, September 15, 2013, Brooklyn:  A two-day event with discussions and workshops on food, featuring Mario Batali, Wylie Dufresne, Dan Barber, Alessandro Porcelli, April Bloomfield and more.  Talks include those on food porn, food photography, Brooklyn food, gluten and more.

Taste of the West Village 2013, Saturday, September 21, 2013, noon to 4 p.m., The Yard at P.S.41, Greenwich Avenue and Charles Street, West Village:  Sample cuisine from West Village restaurants.  Tickets $40.

11th Annual Taste of the Village, Thursday, September 26, 2013, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Washington Square Park, Village:  Over 30 local food and wine vendors and jazz.  Tickets $50.

Smoke @ ICC, Saturday, September 28, 2013, 4:15 p.m. to 8 p.m., Pier 57 at 15th Street, Manhattan:  Teams from around the country compete to smoke the best brisket in 4 categories.  Public tasting, beer garden and live music.  Tickets $65.

The 10th Annual NYC Dumpling Festival Eating Contest, Saturday, September 28, 2013, noon to 5 p.m., Sara D. Roosevelt Park on East Houston Street between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets, Manhattan:  All proceeds benefit the Food Bank For New York City in this dumpling eating contest with men’s and women’s divisions.

North:  Nordic Food Festival, October 2 through 7, 2013, various locations, NYC:  Celebrate Nordic cuisine with lunches/dinners by Scandinavian chefs and cooking classes with Scandinavian chefs.

3rd Annual EscapeMaker’s Local Food & Travel Expo in Brooklyn, Saturday, October 5, 2013, noon to 5 p.m., Borough Hall, Brooklyn:  Exhibitors who are within a 50-mile radius of Brooklyn will be exhibiting.  Tastings and a special Made in Brooklyn market.