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'Balaboosta'

Eclectic Israeli flavors from the queen of falafel, Einat Admony

Reviewed by Amy Kritzer, Fri., Sept. 6, 2013

'Balaboosta'

Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love

by Einat Admony
Artisan Books, 288 pp., $29.95

In simple terms, "balaboosta" is Yiddish for a perfect housewife. But it is really much more than that. A balaboosta does it all: She cooks, she cleans, she grinds her own hummus. It is a way of life, and a respected one at that. For Einat Admony, a modern balaboosta is anyone who "lives life with gusto, shuns fear, and relies on instinct over precision."

With that definition, it is no wonder that Admony chose to name one of her three New York City restaurants and her first cookbook after the Yiddish word. She owns and runs three restaurants, has a hectic family life, and frequently hosts dinner parties. Admony recently participated in and won an episode of Chopped and threw down with Bobby Flay – definitely a woman who lives with passion.

Though not kosher (the Not-So-Jewish Chicken Soup gets its smoky flavor from chorizo), the recipes are Israeli in nature, based on dishes from Admony's childhood and popular restaurants. Dishes like Mussels Drenched in Ouzo and Sunchoke Soup with Crispy Chestnuts are full of exotic flavor, yet not overly complex to prepare. Traditional shakshuka, a tomato and egg dish, and her famous falafel are interspersed with should-be exotic classics like Ricotta, Pine Nut, and Honey Bread Pudding or Beef Tartare With Harissa. The chapter on basics has some of the most useful techniques, from her Hubby's Hummus to pickled red onion and cauliflower and Perfect Preserved Lemons, and the photos of vibrantly colored food and Admony in action are exquisite.

The cookbook is organized into unique yet practical themes such as Romantic Dishes, Fancy-Schmancy, and Kidding Around, which is pitched at kids, but I would happily nosh on the child-friendly Red Velvet Gnocchi or Banana Date Lime Smoothie. Heck, I'd happily nosh on any Balaboosta recipe.

Not only is Admony a talented chef, but she shares vivid stories of plucking chickens with her Persian mother, her first heartbreak, and her instant connection with her now husband and partner. Throughout these candid revelations, food continues to be the common thread.

Admony's book tour stops in Austin with a cooking class at Central Market on Wednesday, Sept. 25. She will share a few of her eclectic recipes and pro tips. See Central Market's website for more details and to reserve a spot.

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