Balaboosta: A perfect Israeli cookbook

Published on Thursday, 10 October 2013 by Webmaster

Balaboosta: A perfect Israeli cookbook
Chef and restaurateur Einat Admony’s new cookbook, Balaboosta, Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love (Artisan Books, 2013) is beautiful, fun and has many great looking recipes. And it just might be the most Israeli cookbook I’ve seen lately (and that includes Hebrew cookbooks published in Israel). Everything from the Yiddish name (Balaboosta means the perfect housewife) to the Sephardi and Mizrachi recipes. The openness and direct language in which Einat talks about everything, from her relationship with her mother to why she came up with the Morning Orgasm Cocktail recipe. The bold flavored Israeli recipes, including Israeli kids’ favorite chicken schnitzel, shakshuka and Persian rice, and even Mussels drenched in ouzo, that you just might find at chef’s restaurants in Tel Aviv. But above all it’s the sense of longing Einat expresses to her old homeland and to her far away family and childhood flavors - evident in almost every page of the book - that makes this book very Israeli, at least in my Israeli eyes.

Yet, when you first see the book, the word Israel appears so small and only on the back cover, that it took me awhile to find it. With all the praise and attention modern Israeli cuisine is getting lately, especially in New York, I was surprised.

Einat worked her way up, starting at culinary school in Israel, working in some of the finest restaurants in Israel and the U.S., including Haim Cohen's Karen in Jaffa and Bolo and Tabla in New York. But when it came time to open her first place she chose to start a falafel joint, Taim in West village. "It was kind of an embarrassment for me to open a falafel place," Einat told me in a phone conversation on Thursday. After scoring an impressive resume at the fanciest restaurants, falafel seemed too simple. "Now I'm proud. It's a good falafel." The NY Times and many other publications from all over the world agree with her.

But for Einat, "falafel is not Israeli, and hummus is not Israeli. But it is natural that we will be influenced by the Arab cuisines around us, and don't forget that many of our parents came from Arab countries, where they had falafel."

Einat's mother is of Persian origin and her father is Yemenite. "I come from home cooking." she said, "and from a family where everyone cooks. I think that's why I'm a little different than my colleagues, and that's why I go back home after work and cook. It's not hard when you love it."

In her second restaurant, Balaboosta in Nolita, she found a way to combine her home cooking with more sophisticated and individual creativity. "For lunch we serve home style cooking, like hamousta and shakshuka, schnitzel with Israeli couscous, Morrocan style fish and a platter of hummus, labne, matbucha and za'atar served with bread. In the evening we serve the hummus in a mortar and pestle, and it looks cool. And in general, a more sophisticated fare. Like pasta with lemon zest and cardamom together with braised lamb shoulder and beans. More Mediterranean than Israeli." To her version of the Spanish shrimp with garlic, parsley and chili she adds slices of preserved lemon, adding her own touch on traditional fare.

For me, this couldn't be more Israeli. But however you call it, Einat's food is fabulous and all these yummy sounding recipes are available in her book.

Chef Einat Adomony will arrive to Los Angeles (October 26th, 27th) for several events:
Booksigning and Demo at Surfas
Booksigning and Demo at The Gourmandise School.
Balboosta pop-up dinner at Urban Radish Restaurant.

What Do you Think? Have your say!