Whereas the much acclaimed cookbook Jerusalem by Yotem Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi feature stunning recipes that sound delectable but require 27 steps and a chef’s degree to execute properly, Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration by Orly Ziv is a new cookbook featuring basic Israeli fare for the home cook. And that’s a good thing.
Everyone loves the variety of salads, or “salatim,” that traditional Israeli cuisine offers, and Cook in Israel dedicates its first three sections to eggplant and tomatoes, salads and vegetables. Included are simple classics like baba ghanoush, hummus and Moroccan carrot salad. But there are also some innovative twists on tradition like Israeli salad with pomegranate and avocado and shakshuka with eggplant.
I also like the Holiday section which includes recipes for several kinds of latkes, honey cake and apple jam among others. Top on my list of recipes to try? The chocolate and halva babka. Delish.
The ingredient list for the recipes is refreshingly short, and there is nothing that seems daunting.The book is truly filled with everyday, accessible recipes for the cook who loves to bring the flavors and warmth of Israel into their kitchen.
Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration, Orly Ziv
Most cookbooks leave me a bit bored and uninspired. I am admittedly very picky about where I procure recipes from, and which cookbooks occupy the precious counter space in my kitchen. But it was a delightful day last week when my copy of the Balaboosta cookbook by Chef Einat Admony arrived.
I have eaten several times at Balaboosta in NYC. And by several I mean, so many times I probably cannot count. Never once did I leave disappointed. When a friend tells me they are going to eat at Balaboosta, I always reply “make sure to order the cauliflower – it is the best cauliflower you will ever eat!” For those that haven’t yet tasted the cauliflower, they always look at me a bit strange. I mean, how life-changing could a cauliflower dish really be? Well, it is.
And to my supreme happiness, Einat’s recipe for salty, sweet tangy “Cauliflower Everyone Loves” is included in the cookbook.
Balaboosta’s menu is deeply rooted in Mediterranean flavors, although I would really call it Israeli fare – not kosher, but inspired by Einat’s Persian Jewish roots: grind your own hummus at the table and then relish eating it up with fluffy pita. Fried olives with labne. And whole grilled fish, just to name a few of my favorite dishes.
The cookbook itself is a more of a hybrid, featuring the Mediterranean flavors of Balaboosta the restaurant, while also including some of Einat’s kids-friendly food ideas (bourekas, veggie chips and schnitzel fingers), romantic meals (coconut milk french toast, lamb chops with Persian lime sauce) and also her favorite healthy cooking options (butternut squash and saffron soup, pavlova with berry coulis). It also has an entire section dedicated to traditional, Israeli foods. Like the restaurant, not all the recipes are kosher, but there are so few dishes that include shellfish that I would recommend this cookbook to those who keep kosher (and don’t) without hesitation.
I expected to love the recipes in the Balaboosta cookbook. I didn’t expect to LOVE Einat’s stories about her family and food. For me a cookbook is about the recipes, not about the author. But I find myself unable to tear myself away from the authentic narrative sprinkled throughout her recipes.
Perhaps my favorite quote from Einat is her explanation of the Yiddish word ‘balaboosta’ and what it means to her:
Like my mom, my aunt Chana and the generations of balaboostas before then, I cook from the gut: no measuring cups, no scales. But unlike them, I see being a balaboosta not just a way to run a home but as a means of navigating the pitfalls of life with a courageous heart, a head filled with determination and a spirit of risk and adventure.
Every cookbook should have great recipes, and stories, that inspire even beyond the kitchen. So Chef Einat, thank you!
Balaboosta is available for pre-order on Amazon now and will be available on September 3rd. Will be a tad too late for Rosh Hashanah inspiration, but hopefully you can snag your copy in time for the remainder of the Jewish holidays this Fall and beyond.