Kosher-cookbook author Jamie Geller admits she wasn’t born with the balaboosta gene. Photograph courtesy of Jamie Geller.
Once upon a time, a Jewish home was managed by a domestic goddess who could clean, sew and cook a meal for an army at a moment’s notice. And this balabusta, or mistress of the house, would do it all without breaking a sweat in her immaculately starched apron.
But in today’s frantically paced world of fast food and career couples, has the balabusta become as obsolete as the meat grinder or pop-up toaster?
Some argue that the skills of a well-organized homemaker are a more essential commodity than ever, for men as well as for women. A growing number of balabusta proponents — bloggers with monikers like Balabusta Mom, Bible Belt Balabusta, and Modern Balabusta — extol the virtues of gourmet cooking, home organization, and hands-on parenting. Their hype only piles pressure on those of us who haven’t quite acquired “balabusta-dom.”
“Would You Make This?” is a sporadic column where personal chef Alix Wall evaluates a new cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.
I have to admit that I had no idea who Jamie Geller was before receiving “Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes” (published October 15, William Morrow). When I read she’s known as the kosher Rachael Ray, I thought “okay, so she’s meant to appeal to the masses who don’t like to cook much, and don’t mind relying on some pre-packaged ingredients to get out of the kitchen faster.” That’s exactly right. Geller refers to herself as The Bride Who Knew Nothing, and says she can’t get out of the kitchen fast enough. That sounds a bit odd for someone who’s since become a kosher food celebrity, but never mind. Her books are for people who don’t love to cook, but need to feed their families, and want to do it reasonably well.
Every kosher cookbook has its multiple versions of roast chicken, brisket and kugel, as this one does. And, I skipped right over the sugary kugels and anything with marshmallow. Let’s see how the kosher maven handles some dishes not traditionally found in a kosher cookbook, I reasoned. Which is how I came up with fish tacos, corn cilantro cakes and cherry pies.
I warned my friends, a Bay Area power couple (their description), that we’d be eating an unconventional Shabbos meal of fish tacos. They were game.
While Geller’s corn cakes call for frozen or canned corn, amazingly, fresh was still available in our farmers markets, which is another reason I chose this dish to try. Also, I liked that it went along with my taco theme. I chose the cherry pies not only because I can never get enough cherries, and didn’t know one can buy them frozen.
The corn cakes involve mixing corn kernels with corn meal, a bit of flour, some optional hot sauce, eggs and a few other ingredients and then lightly frying them and serving them with an avocado “aioli.”
Jamie Geller, often dubbed the “Kosher Rachel Ray,” is the first to admit that making aliyah was a challenge. But nine months in she’s saying “what took me so long?!” Geller captured her family’s trials, tribulations, and successes of moving to Israel last August in the documentary series “Joy of Aliyah.” Based on the success of her first program, Geller has teamed up once again with Nefesh B’Nefesh and new partner 12 Tribe Films to create a food and travel show, “Joy of Israel with Jamie Geller,” that follows her family on culinary adventures around the country.
“Even before the dream of aliyah was born,” says Geller, “I wanted to do a food and travel show set in Israel.” Inspired by programs like Jean-Georges and Marja Vongerichten’s Korean food and travel show “Kimchi Chronicles,” Geller says that her connection to Israel is what makes “Joy of Israel” more than your average travel program. “The real mission of the show,” explains Geller, “is to be a food and travel show with the backbone of this family that just made aliyah — so through the eyes of new olim [immigrants] and the excitement and emotion that goes with that.”
Check out the first episode below
Before we get to the food (and believe us, we’ll get to the food), we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out how much of a rock star Newark mayor Cory Booker was at the seventh annual Man-O-Manischewitz Kosher Cook-Off on Thursday.
After posing with star-struck guests, Booker took the stage to praise Manischewitz for moving its headquarters to Newark, congratulate the finalists and practice his Yiddish. He described his feelings at the event as “nachas” and added that, as mayor, his ribbon cutting skills have gotten so strong he “could be a mohel.”
At the end of his speech, which was peppered with applause, Booker said, “Baruch Hashem for Manischewitz,” and finally, “Yasher Koach.”
Okay, now back to the food competition at hand. The event — held for the first time at the plant, where just next door, the year’s last batch of Passover matzos were being completed — brought together five finalists, whose recipes were chosen from thousands of entries.
Manischewitz’s marketing staff, along with research and development specialists, had the task of culling through the entries. “We’re always looking for something different,” said Alain Bankier, co-CEO of Manischewitz. “We’re not interested in your mom’s brisket.”
If you are a fan of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and are into kosher baking, then there is an event for you. SweetUp, is holding a kosher cupcake bake-off at on February 3 in on Long Island at noted kosher baking supply center Breezy’s as a fundraiser for the Achiezer Five Towns Hurricane Relief Fund.
The contestants, Staten Island’s Cake a Bite, The Bronx’s Lil’ Miss Cakes, Brooklyn’s Cake My Breath Away, and Lakewood, NJ’s Cup of Cake will fire up their ovens this weekend and work to bake the cupcake that will wow kosher food celebrity and head judge Jamie Geller. So what does Geller look for in a cupcake?
Jamie Geller is often called the “Kosher Rachael Ray.” But she wasn’t always a domestic goddess — or even kosher! After a successful career as a journalist and television producer, Geller got married and realized that she was “a disaster on wheels in the kitchen,” as she says.
Since learning her way around a stove, she’s brought her hard-earned personal and culinary lessons to the masses through a mini culinary empire with kosher cookbooks, web cooking shows, a magazine, and the popular Joy of Kosher website.
This week Geller and her family are picking up their family and leaving behind everything they know to move to Israel, all while documenting it in a reality mini-series called the Joy of Aliyah. I caught up with Geller before she made the move to talk about how she went from zero to hero in the kitchen, what she thinks of Israeli food and what lies ahead.
Celebrity chef Jamie Geller is chronicling her upcoming move to Israel in a series of documentary videos.
Geller, a television producer, author and cooking celebrity, is producing with the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah assistance organization a documentary series following her and her family as they prepare to make aliyah and finally land in Israel.
She is leaving from New York on the Aug. 13 Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Geller founded the Kosher Media Network, which combines traditional media such as magazines, books and broadcast with digital, online and social media. In the spring of 2011, the network unveiled its Joy of Kosher consumer brand, launching JoyofKosher.com and the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine.
This blog is cross-posted from Joy of Kosher.
Jamie Geller claims she knew nothing about cooking or food until she was married several years ago, left a fast-track career as a New York City television producer to embark on the frazzled career of Jewish wife and mother. Geller tells part of her story in her first book Quick & Kosher - Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing.
This winter she follows it up with her new book Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes , which, responds to the needs of today’s busy home cook, by sharing quick, simple dishes that have the gourmet look and taste, without elaborate preparation.
You began your professional career as a writer and producer for HBO, what made you decide to switch from cable to a cutting board?
Jamie Geller: The switch was born from necessity. I had never intended to leave TV and that was my life’s goal for a very long time. However, as I adopted a kosher lifestyle, my goals changed. Having 20 people in my home for shabbos quite regularly became one of them. So I quickly realized that it was time to hit the cutting board!