Balaboosta by Einat Admony
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Einat Admony is the chef-owner of two NYC restaurants - Balaboosta and Taïm (a falafel/smoothie vegetarian place!). While you might expect this cookbook to be a companion book to the restaurant of the same name, it really isn't, except for one chapter called "Fancy-Schmancy," which features recipes from the restaurant.
Balaboosta is a Yiddish term meaning "the perfect housewife, homemaker, wonderful mother, cook & gracious hostess. She does it all and she does it well!" (definition taken from restaurant website). The idea is that Einat Admony is the embodiment of a balaboosta, and she includes recipes that span her own heritage as well as the broader scope of Mediterranean cuisine. If that sounds a bit far-reaching, well, it is, but there are traditional recipes alongside modern takes on dishes in this book that I really appreciated.
The sections are not divided by type of dish, but rather by theme. There are chapters such as "Grown-Up Table," "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry," and "Backyard Barbecue." This makes for a more difficult quick reference, but aids in meal planning for entertaining or just making dinner.
From the "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry" section, I made shakshuka, a spicy egg-tomato dish. I've made varieties of this dish before from other cultures, but this one is more of an Israeli focus. It was good, a nice balance of vegetables and spices, although I did instinctively cut back on the salt called for (and wished I'd cut back more!)
I had also marked the Casablanca Catch and Challah from the "Grown-Up Table" section, Moroccan Carrots and Eighteen-Minute Rice from the "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry" section, and Sabich (an Iraqi eggplant sandwich), baklava, and Sambusak (Israeli empanada-ish dish) from "Thinking About Home." The "cook/bake the book" people over at Serious Eats recently made the baklava, and the recipe is available over there if you want to take a peek.
The last recipe I had a chance to try were the Space Cookies. The recipe calls for tahini and poppy seeds, and I had always wanted to try tahini in a cookie after seeing it all over Turkish baking blogs. I'm not sure what I personally thought of the recipe - there were no eggs in it so the texture was more like shortbread, very crumbly, and I thought the tahini was pretty savory for a cookie. I brought them to work and my student workers were equally torn, until two guys came in and ate the rest between the two of them. Although the verdict was mixed, I think they were definitely appreciated by those two.
The one recipe I will most definitely still make because I can't get it out of my head is the Turkish Coffee Brownies. I had to track down cardamom at the spice store downtown because none of the local grocery stores seem to be stocking it these days, and then there is the challenge of keeping chocolate in the house... but someday, it will happen. Someday soon. And that recipe is a great example of the combination of traditional ingredients presented in a new way - Turkish coffee in brownie form.