My mom was a great cook, but she also worked, so she would often call us on her way home, when we were home from school, and be like, This is how you make meringue. She would talk us through recipes and have us help her get things ready. She really brought us into the kitchen. We were always around, absorbing and learning.
I actually thought about going to culinary school after high school, but let's just say that was a different time. Going to culinary school wasn’t as accepted as it is now. I put it out of my mind and went to college, studied political communications and religion, and moved to Israel to work in television. But I was all along interested in food and cooked often, especially for Shabbat.
And then, in my mid-twenties, when I moved back to New York, food media was starting to become a real enterprise, and I was reading cookbooks like novels.
I did a bit of freelance food writing, and then, eventually, I got a job at Gourmet magazine as a copywriter in the marketing department. And it was at the heyday of print media, and it was the era of Ruth Reichl. I got to travel, meet a ton of chefs, and do a lot of writing.
I was reading cookbooks like novels.
Eventually, I left and went to culinary school. I’ve been freelancing ever since and working on my own — and I started coauthoring cookbooks.
I decided to write my own cookbook while working with Chrissy Teigen on her second book. She's been public about her postpartum depression, and so we took a break from the second book and I had a few months that I didn't think I was going to have in my schedule. I thought to myself, You have no excuse now not to write this book proposal that you've been talking about for years.
I decided to write my own cookbook while working with Chrissy Teigen.
I was already living in Israel a good part of the time, and I had wanted to write an Israeli cookbook but worried about doing it from the point of view of someone who wasn't living in Israel. Once I got going, I made it a very personal story, feeling very close to what I knew and what resonated with me about Israeli cuisine.
Before I started coauthoring cookbooks, I was writing a lot more in my own voice. I wouldn't say that I lost my voice, but my voice was channeled into the service of others. I knew that I wanted to eventually write my own books, but I had some concerns about how long it would take me to find my own path and way of expressing things.
It's definitely been a challenge to talk myself out of my own impostor syndrome — about having enough to say. I’m not like, you know, Chrissy Teigen or David Burtka or Candace Nelson or any of the great, amazing people that I've worked with, but I'm getting there. I've gotten there.
The cooking that I do in Israel was a big part of my absorption into the country. I still have an American cooking style and perspective, and in the book I figured out a way to naturally combine it with the Israeli cooking perspective.
The cooking that I do in Israel was a big part of my absorption into the country.
A lot of people make chicken soup, and Israel is the land of many chicken soups from a lot of different cultures. But I've always loved the way my mom made chicken soup. She died in 2006, and my way of staying in touch with her is through making her recipes.
Essentially, you take a whole chicken and wrap it up in a sleeping bag and give it a long overnight slumber in The Dutchess. It cooks for 12 hours in the broth, and it's like an ocean wave washing over the chicken. Use a very, very low flame, as opposed to, like, any kind of a major boiling experience. I keep the carrots, onions, and parsnips whole. The broth takes on this incredible golden color. It kind of caramelizes on itself. It’s the most delicious balm for anything that's ailing you, whether you realize it or not.
The broth takes on this incredible golden color.
I put a couple of Israeli hacks on it. I really like Yemenite hawaij, which is a spice blend that incorporates turmeric and cumin and adds spice and depth. I add it to my mom's chicken soup recipe along with some fresh ginger to give the soup a little bit of an edge.
People often ask me what my favorite cookbooks are, and my favorite cookbook is no cookbook. I go to the market and look and choose what inspires me, but I'm just as inspired by opening up the fridge and making a meal out of the dregs of what's been in my fridge for a week or two. I also think a cocktail is a great accessory for almost any dinner.
My Israeli cooking life is more relaxed and infused with sunlight than my New York cooking life. The light here really inspires my cooking — it encourages me to use spices and bright flavors. It empowers me.