AUTHOR PHOTO: KATHERINE NEEDLES
Q: What is a balaboosta, and why did you choose that name for your restaurant and your book?
A: A balaboosta is, traditionally, a perfect housewife who runs a happy home, but today it’s trickier. Most women work outside their homes, managing careers and kids, so it’s hard to live up to the traditional definition. People are balaboostas in different ways now. I have a cousin who organizes everyone; she plans kids’ events, karaoke nights, everything—that’s her way of being a balaboosta. For me, it’s about food.
I chose the name because it’s warm and reflects who I am. The people I choose to work with are genuine, kind. I created a restaurant that looks like my home because I want my customers to feel at home, like they’re in their own living rooms, but with much better food. And now they have my recipes so they can make the food, too.
Q: Do you consider yourself a balaboosta?
A: Yes, a different kind of balaboosta than my mom was. A modern balaboosta who figures out how to build a successful career without neglecting my husband and my family. I love what I do—totally apart from money considerations—and of course I love my family, too.
Q: What sets Balaboosta apart from other cookbooks?
A: Usually with cookbooks you don’t want to read them, you want to look at the pictures. With my cookbook, you want to read the stories. I love the introduction and the Fat Like Me chapter, but Just the Two of Us is my favorite part. My hope is that the stories draw you in and make you want to cook the recipes even more. And the recipes are fun and friendly—nothing pretentious.
Q: What recipe in the book do you cook for your family most often?
A: So many. The Chicken Tagine (p. 29) comes to mind first. And I make Chicken Littles (p. 53) a lot for my kids. They’re my version of chicken nuggets—or schnitzel, as they’re called in Israel. I use a combination of cornflakes and panko because the cornflakes give extra crunch and the panko holds better than bread crumbs.
Q: What’s your comfort food?
A: My mom’s Pomegranate Chicken (p. 213). Definitely. And rice.
Q: Do your kids like to cook yet?
A: They love it. We make Challah (p. 24) together every Friday. They do a lot of recipes with me: Zucchini Patties (p. 78) and meatballs (Turkey Balls with Okra, p. 100) are favorites.
Q: What spices can’t you live without?
A: I need all of them! Cumin and paprika, if I really had to choose.
Q: What flavors remind you of your childhood—and are there any flavors that define New York for you?
A: Persian lime and fenugreek remind me of childhood. For New York, I’d have to say the orecchiette pasta with white beans, sausage, and broccoli rabe at Olea, a restaurant across the street from our apartment in Fort Greene. My kids have been going there forever. When my son, Liam, was a baby, he would fall asleep, and the waiters would hold him, carry him around the restaurant on their shoulders as they were serving.
Q: How are you running three successful restaurants while raising two young children?
A: I have great chefs I can trust, and that allows me to spend time at home. And I have rules to help me keep things in perspective. I will never go to work on a Friday night because I cook for my family and friends on that night. My husband, Stefan, and I go out together every two weeks. Sunday nights, we go out as a family. Stefan and I almost never leave the kids with a babysitter; except for our date nights, we try to make sure at least one of us is home with them. On nights when I am cooking at Balaboosta, my kids come and eat with me at the restaurant. And they are very involved with my business – Liam [who is 7] is always asking questions about what’s happening at Balaboosta and Taim.
Q: What recipe should I rush home and make tonight?
A: The Casablanca Catch (p. 23). It’s full of flavor and not too hard.Excerpted from Balaboosta by Einat Admony (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Quentin Bacon.