Rosh Hashanah Menus 2013


The table setting always includes my apple and honey set one of my favorite wedding gifts!


Apple Themed Place Cards

Rosh Hashanah is by far and away my favorite holiday and one that I have hosted for friends and family for the past several years.  Hosting Rosh Hashanah dinner (or dinners) brings me so much joy but in order to pull it off, especially when the holiday falls mid week requires a lot of planning and cooking/baking ahead of time. I am posting below my menus for the first and second night of Rosh Hashanah with links to some of the recipes. I’ve also made some suggestions below as to what can easily be prepared in advance, leaving as little last minute cooking as possible.

First Night of Rosh Hashanah

Second Night of Rosh Hashanah:

I try to do all of my baking in advance (up to several weeks). The mandel bread and the honey cake both freeze really well. Tzimis or traditional brisket recipes are great do ahead entrees. They usually take an entire day to roast as they cook at a very low temperature but can definitely be frozen at least a week ahead of time. I prepared the green gazpacho a few days in advance as well as the chickpea salad, in both cases the flavors got better after a few days. The chicken marbella recipe can also be prepared the night before, and I love that it can be served room temperature.

Tabbouleh Salad

Tabbouleh Salad

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad

Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella

Fish Tacos with Brazilian Black Bean Soup

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

One of our family’s all time favorite meals is fish tacos. They are simple to prepare and perfect for entertaining a group with individual tastes. I like to prepare several different toppings and let people create their own. I served our fish tacos last night with a light vegetable slaw, sliced avocados, shredded cheese and my favorite Brazilian black bean soup which I served room temperature as a topping for the tacos.

The Brazilian black bean soup is a great recipe because almost all the ingredients are pantry staples and ones you’re likely to already have in your kitchen. The original recipe is from the wonderful Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen:

Brazilian Black Bean Soup (before blending)

Brazilian Black Bean Soup (before blending)

Brazilian Black Bean Soup (Serves 6-8)

• 2 cups dried black beans, soaked (I prefer to use to two 16oz cans rinsed and drained)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 3 cups onions, chopped
• 10 medium garlic cloves, crushed
• 2 teaspoons cumin
• 2-2 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 medium carrot, diced
• 1 medium bell pepper, diced
• 1 1/2 cups orange juice
• black pepper, to taste
• cayenne, to taste
• 2 medium tomatoes, diced (optional…I used diced tomatoes from a can)
• Optional toppings: sour cream, chopped cilantro, salsa, (I added some avocado and lime and sometimes shredded cheese)
Heat olive oil in a medium sized skillet. Add chopped onion, half of the crushed cloves garlic, cumin, salt, and carrot.  Saute over medium heat until the carrot is just tender. Add the rest of the crushed garlic and diced bell pepper. Saute until everything is very tender (10-15 mins). Add the sauteed mixture to the beans, scraping out every last morsel.  Stir in orange juice, black pepper and cayenne to taste, and diced tomatoes (optional).  Puree all or some of the soup in a blender and return to kettle. Simmer over very low heat 10-15 mins more. Serve topped with an artful arrangement of sour cream, cilantro and salsa. (Note: this recipe freezers very well!)

For the fish: I used pre-marinated talapia from Trader Joes but any light white fish would work well marinaded with a little olive oil and lemon or lime juice seasoned with s&p.  Cook the fish for 6 minutes under the broiler on high, serve on a platter with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

For the slaw:  Use approximately 2 cups of shredded cabbage and carrot mixture, toss with 1 bunch of sliced green onions and 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro.  Mix together 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice and s&p to taste; add to cabbage mixture and let sit for at least 30min.

Veggie Slaw

Veggie Slaw

My First’s 1st Birthday

Our daughter Sylvie turned one this weekend and I had almost as much fun planning her little party as she did eating cake for the first time. I thought sharing a few pictures and recipes from the party would be a fun way to finally reinvigorate the Brooklyn Balabusta.

Sylvie loves animals, so I decided to go with that as a theme for the party which I incorporated into the decorations, party favors and even the cake. For the favors, I bought little animal hand puppets and each baby got to pick their own to take home, I displayed them on little party favor bags filled with iced animal crackers (my personal weakness).

For the cake, I couldn’t resist my mom’s tried and true, fail proof, Best Ever Banana Cake.  It truly is a crowd pleaser and the best part is you can bake it way in advance because the key to it’s moistness is that it goes straight into the freezer after you bake it.  Instead of baking it in a 9×13 pan I baked the cake in two 9 inch rounds to make a 2 layer cake, I added colorful sugar sprinkles in between the two layers and even found animal shaped sprinkles to decorate the top. Seeing Sylvie savour her first piece of cake was definitely a highlight of the day! See recipe below

Best Ever Banana Cake


1 1/2 cup bananas mashed and very ripe
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/8 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp, vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
For Frosting:
1/2 cub butter, softened
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 275 (sounds very low but it works, trust me)
Grease and flour pan
In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with lemon juice; set aside
In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside
In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cup sugar until light and fluffy
Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla
Beat in the flour mixture alternatively with buttermilk
Stir in banana mixture
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour
Remove from oven and place directly into freezer which will make the very moist

For frosting: cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in 2 tsp vanilla; add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.  Spread on cooled cake and enjoy!

The Brooklyn Balabusta is back!

After a long hiatus from cooking and entertaining following the birth of my daughter Sylvie Rose who just turned six months, I am itching to start entertaining again.  Our nights are mostly spent in now, Sylvie is an early to bed early to rise baby so I do have time left in the day to do a little cooking.  I’ve actually found it to be a really nice way to unwind, relax and try new recipes.  I’m also trying to simplify things as life doesn’t leave me that much extra time to grocery shop or spend hours on end in the kitchen.  I don’t know how often I’ll get the chance to blog but I’d like to continue sharing some of my favorite recipes.  I’ve loved sharing my passion for food with Sylvie, she seems to love food as much as I do based on the size of her cheeks! I couldn’t help but share a picture of her trying sweet potatoes for the first time!!!

Sylvie loves her sweet potato!



Banana Date Smoothie

Banana Date Smoothie

I first had a version of this smoothie at a restaurant in Brooklyn called Siggy’s.  I was pleasantly surprised how filling and satisfying it was and not overly sweet. Dates are a great source of fiber and the almond butter adds a protein boost this smoothie is almost a meal in itself and very refreshing! You can tweak the recipe to adjust to your own taste but here are the basic ingredients:

Blend the following ingredients:

1 frozen banana (throw in a few ice cubes if you use a regular banana)
2 tbs almond butter
4-5 medjool dates
1/4 to a 1/2 cup almond milk
A drizzle of honey or agave to taste (I almost think it doesn’t need the honey)
Optional: (if you want the smoothie a little thicker and more tart, I added a couple tbs of Greek yogurt)

I am soliciting tasty smoothie recipes so if you have a favorite please post to the blog or email me at!

Summer Salads

Here are two recipes for my most recent favorite summer salads. They are both light and refreshing and can be served as a side salad or as a main course, they would both be great with a side of grilled shrimp or chicken.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad:

Chop up watermelon into cubes of about 1 inch.  Add chopped red onion, chopped black nicoise olives (optional), chopped yellow pepper, chopped cucumber, a large handful of arugula and top with crumbled feta cheese.  I added a tbs each of chopped fresh basil and mint.

For the dressing: I whisked together olive oil, white wine vinegar, a tsp of Dijon mustard, a squeeze of agave and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, the feta cheese makes it quite salty but I love the combination of salty and sweet you get with the watermelon.

Shaved Fennel and Arugula Salad

Shaved Fennel and Arugula Salad:

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks Blog (you must check it out if you’re not already a fan, you will be!)

Thinly slice 1 fennel bulb, using mandolin helps but is not necessary.  Add sliced cucumber (the recipe called for thinly sliced zucchini but I replaced with cucumber), halved cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced radishes.  Combine vegetables with fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon), olive oil and salt and pepper.  Let sit for 20 min.  Add arugula, toasted pine nuts (the recipe called for sliced almonds which would also be delicious) and fresh dill (optional) and toss together.

Feel free get creative using these recipes as a base. Their pretty basic so you can replace vegetables with ones you need to use up in the fridge or others you have a craving for.  I love adding color to salads and the pictures don’t quite do them justice but their beautiful, light and perfect for a summer night.

Homemade Summer Rolls! A perfect summer meal

I first learned how to make fresh homemade summer rolls from my friend Laura when we lived together in DC. It was one of our favorite summer meals to make together. The ingredients: tofu, fresh vegetables, rice noodles and fresh mint and basil are just so refreshing and a perfect no cook meal for a hot summer night.

Homemade Summer Rolls

The only ingredients that you may have to seek out are the rice paper, rice noodles and hoisin sauce all of which can be found at a bigger grocery store, Whole Foods or a local Korean Market (on almost every corner in NYC).  I also like dipping the rolls in peanut sauce which gives them a little more kick.

I like to prepare all of the ingredients first, I use pre-marinated tofu that is a little firmer than regular tofu and just saves a lot of prep time. I cut the tofu into thin slices or squares and set aside. I add sliced carrots and cucumbers but you can get creative and really add any thinly sliced vegetables. The noodles only  need to be cooked for a few minutes, then rinse with cold water and let drain. Once everything is prepped set up a little assembly line.  I think it’s easiest to prepare the rolls on the three plates, fill one with water to soak the roll paper, use the second to assemble the roll and the third to hold the finished rolls.  The rice paper will be the consistency of an uncooked noodle, you need to soak in water for about 1-2 minutes until it softens, remove from water, shake access water and place on clean plate. Place a little of each ingredient in the center of the roll, finishing with the mint and basil and then tightly roll like a burrito. This technique takes some practice, I still can’t get them as tight and neat as Laura’s her tiny little hands probably make it easier but remember, they’ll all taste the same! You might want to try making these by yourself at home a few times before you plan to serve them for a dinner party. I fill one plate with the finished spring rolls and then start another depending on how many people you’re making them for. I think its best to chill the spring rolls before serving.  They are a lot of work and require some patience but I still haven’t found a summer roll in the city that I like better than Laura’s version of homemade summer rolls.

Sunday night grilled leg of lamb, cold pea soup and quinoa salad

I like to save a lot of my cooking for Sundays when I have the extra hours to shop and prepare. While this meal sounds like a lot of work all three dishes were very simple to prepare individually and did not require a lot of ingredients or time. Also, all could be prepared at least a day ahead of time.

(Full disclosure: I forgot to take a pic so this one is sourced from Epicurious/Gourmet. My looked just as delicious and so will yours!)

For the leg of lamb, I asked the butcher to butterfly the meat so it was easier to grill.  I found a recipe from Gourmet using a simple marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper.  Just combine all the ingredients in a ziplock bag, add the lamb pressing out all the air, turn bag to coat and let marinate in the fridge for at least 8 hours. Bring the lamb to room temp before cooking, remove from marinade, grill on lightly oiled grill rack for about 10-15 minutes.  Transfer lamb to cutting board, cover loosely with foil, let sit for 20 minutes. Cut lamb across grain into slices.

Cold Pea Soup

For the pea soup, Mark Bittman featured a really simple recipe in the NYTimes.  All it called for was a pound of peas (I had a package of frozen ones which worked perfectly), 3 cups of chicken or vegetable, salt and pepper and sour cream or Greek yogurt for garnish. I also added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some fresh mint. Just combine the peas and stock, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer, cook peas till bright green and tender, let cool.  Add lemon juice and fresh mint or other herbs, blend carefully with a hand blender or regular blender and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. I served without any cream or yogurt and it was delicious, I added some Greek yogurt the next day which made a perfect lunch.

Quinoa Salad

I’ve been making a lot of quinoa salads this summer, basically substituting it in any pasta or orzo salad. The quinoa can be made well ahead of time bringing 1 c quinoa and 2 cups water to boil (make sure to rinse quinoa well before cooking), let simmer covered for 15 min until fluffy. Remove from heat, mix in lemon rind, juice from 1 lemon, olive oil, season w salt and pepper. I added fresh cherry tomatoes, chopped 1 avovado, 1/2 red onion and pine nuts. You could really mix in whatever vegetables you have in fridge or looks good, I added fresh mint and basil but you could add whatever seasoing you like. I made enough to bring for lunch the rest of the week, the salad lasts in the fridge for at least 3-4 days.

Quick Summer Dinners

Summer is finally here which means access to an abundance of fresh local fruits and vegetables making cooking at home during the week quick, healthy and easy! I thought I would start posting some of my favorite last minute week night dinners that are geared towards what I can pick up on the way home from work at the local grocery store or farmers market, quickly prepare leaving plenty of time to enjoy a beautiful summer’s night.

For this dinner I picked up two fresh salmon steaks. The fish guy suggested that I throw them on the grill and then finish them with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and top it with a dollop of herbed butter. I rubbed the salmon steaks with a little oil on both sides and placed directly on grill for approximately 10 min or till cooked through. Flip the fish halfway through grilling.  To make the the butter I used about 1/4 of a stick of unsalted butter, let it soften a bit to room temperature and then mixed it with some fresh herbs (I used dill and sage but you could use whatever you have on hand). After herbs are mixed well into butter, put back in fridge until hardened and then spoon or slice a dollop on top of the fish as soon as it comes off the grill. The butter melts perfectly over the fish adding a wonderful, light flavor. I also used the butter with on top of grilled corn and accompanied the fish with a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad with chopped basil. I had a huge tub of marinated mini mozzarella balls from Costco that I needed to use up which was marinated in some oil, parsley and a little hot pepper which gave the salad some kick. You can really season the salad any way you like but I’d add olive oil, salt and pepper and then drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar.  The fresh basil really finishes it off perfectly.

Baby Shower

I hosted a baby shower for my friend Julia this weekend, the first of my closest friends to be expecting. When I offered to host a baby shower for her, I realized I had never actually been to one before. Having two fabulous and creative co-hostesses made the entire process easier and a lot of fun. They had both been to showers before so with their experience and a little help from Martha Stewart we quickly picked a theme, started to divide and conquer and were soon off and running.

I decided to use this fantastic website Paperless Post to send out and manage the invitations. It’s a classy version of an evite but a great way to manage RSVPs and send out reminders. Julia loves birds so we decided to go with a baby blue bird theme (the invitations had baby blue birds on the top).

For the place settings, I made little birds nests out of packing paper filled with blue Jordan almonds for eggs and put the nests on top of chocolate covered branches.

Here’s what we served:

The Cocktail: White sangria with apples and pears

My favorite wine guy at my local wine shop suggested using Creme de Violette (a beautiful purple colored liquer) in place of brandy or cointreau. The proportions were 1 bottle of wine, 6 oz of dry ginger ale, and 1.5 oz of the creme de violette. I think it got better the longer it sat (or maybe just the more I drank!)

The Food:

A cheese board with a selection of hard and soft cheeses (including Julia’s favorite from Cowgirl Creamery).

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