It’s All In The Presentation

I’m now in Module 3 (out of 5) and we are doing a lot more in terms of plating and complex dishes.  You can check out the rest of my pics on the left side of the page, titled “Creations.”  (Album Title: Ali Babka Blog)
Captions are in the album as well!
Oh! Exciting news!  I now bring a pan into class and sear fresh fish (when we have kosher, of course).  Add that to my reinvented potato…and SHAZAM!  Not goin hungry no more…


One of the highlights of my year is Kosherfest.  Picture a plethora  of foodies gathered together to sample and discover some of the finest kosher (FREE) food.  What could be better?  As a 4th year veteran, I have learned the proper Kosherfest “technique”  I begin my day by drinking a half cup of coffee and a banana in order to satiate my appetitate and give me stamina for this event.  After 5 hours, two bags of samples (including a whole frozen fish), and a a stack of business cards, I could go home happy.  It was a successful year.  The show had more meat than last year, and gluten free products seemed to be the theme.

Below are my top 10 favorite booths (in no particular order).

Kosherfest Top 10

1) Jack’s Gourmet Sausage – Besides being the winner of  the new product competition, the Jamaican Style Jerk Chicken sausages, were one of the many highlights of this company.  Their display had different sausages, ranging from mild to spicy.  The flavor combinations of each were excellent.  This booth makes you question, what is a hot dog?

2) Don Rafael Olive Oil – One of the purest olive oils I’ve ever tasted.  This new company, coming all the way from Chile, is starting to branch out in places around the world.  Their olive oils are one of a kind.  They use a process which takes the natural oils from an ingredient and mixes in with the olive oil.   I have never tasted a purer flavor of orange, oregano, or ginger in olive oil.  Great discovery!

3) West Side Kosher Foods – The Kosher Australian Lamb is now making an appearance to United States.  This lamb is naturally raised, free range , pasture and organic fed.  I tried some lamb meatballs that were great!  I got the recipe and plan on making these soon!

4) Coconut Republic – Tastes like sugar! Low glycemic and in calories, this product is my new favorite find for sugar free diets.  It behaves much like sugar when making caramel and the sweetness is comparable to sugar.  They gave me a lot of free samples, which i plan on experimenting with!

5) 5th Avenue Chocolatiers – Yum.. just yum! Great chocolate!  The best chocolate I sampled at the show!

6) Dorot Pesto – I’m usually not a fan of frozen pre packaged herbs, but this pesto rocked it!  It comes in single servings, so it can be added to a pasta dish and voila!  Great flavor and super convenient!

7) Recanati – Great wine!  Can’t go wrong.  By noon, the Special Reserve Cab/Merlot already ran out!

8) Tishbi Jam – I remember trying this last year and then finding it in William Sonoma.  I bought two jars because I was so excited about the combination of jam and wine.  The Passion fruit Champagne Jam won best new jam and overall product.  Keep doing what you’re doing Tishbi!

9) Mimicreme – They are by far, one of my favorite discoveries.  Say goodbye parve metallic tasting Riches Whip and say hello to  Mimicreme.  Made purely of nut milk, this product whips up like whipped cream and can be used as a creamer for coffee and milk for cereal.
Special note:  Different package for whipping than the one for creamer substitute.

10) Carmona New York and Co – Cool collection of dishes!  They have modern shapes and have even made appearances on TV and in movies. My favorite was the “Window Collection.”

*Check out “Ya That Happened” for a classic Kosherfest pickup line.

                                                   Me and Chef Matan Gutwaks of Care One.
It’s happy hour somewhere….sipping a cocktail

  Me and my assistant, Rebecca Barnett, made our first appearances as Alibabka at Kosherfest.

Photo Credits: Lauren Elefant

Reinventing The Potato

There’s nothing more satisfying then sitting down to a nice and tasty meal after you worked for hours preparing it.  It’s even more tempting, and some might disagree, to prepare new exciting foods that you can’t touch.  At school I make wonderful new foods that I wish I could try, savor and eat.  But I have the full, untouched plate at the end of the night. I grill my classmates on the texture and flavors, asking them a multitude of questions.  The last question I always ask: Is it worth making at home (in kosher version)? Never in my life would I have imagined that I would be boning a rabbit, grilling pork ribs, mixing chicken with cream.  But here I am, 3 days a week, doing just that, and loving every minute! 

I have always loved exploring new textures, flavors and foods throughout the world.  Everywhere I went, I made sure to know all the kosher restaurants and make an appearance there at least once.  Could you imagine going to Mexico, India, France or Israel and not trying their cuisines?  Visiting ancient ruins and trying the food, it completes a trip. Culinary school is like a trip around the world, and yes tasting is part of it.  I know it’s a little bit of a setback for me but I do manage and am learning tons!

I have to say that I have gotten really good at eyeballing the right amount of salt needed for certain dishes and ingredients.  I think of the texture, then add the salt according to how much that product will soak up.  The only thing I had to get used to was meat.  Keeping kosher, I salt the meat ever so slightly because it has already gone through a heavy salting in the kashering process to remove the blood.  The first time I made pan seared chicken, I was told it was bland.  I had to get used to the fact that when chicken and meat were on our butcher block at school, nothing had been done to it yet.

I am starving after each class, and getting home at 11 pm without having a proper meal since lunch, I ate whatever was in my cupboard.  Dinner usually consisted of fruit, leftovers from Shabbos, or worst case scenario, something snacky.  I am very into health and balanced meals, and this was not my norm.  It wasn’t until the “potato class” that I discovered I could easily make myself a baked potato!  Anyone that keeps kosher knows how to not starve in any situation where kosher food is not available.  Tuna sandwiches at Disney World, cold cereal at continental breakfasts, catered and quadruple wrapped meals on airplanes.  Any of these ring a bell?  In Cancun, I even brought along an electric burner and pan to make eggs, grillers and chicken.  And the list could go on.  

After 2 weeks of the same double wrapped baked potato, it started to get old.  It was great though, I was coming home not famished!  Potatoes are a great carb that has gotten a bad rap over the years, but I’m bringing it back!  Last week I began inventing different combinations.  I have started off slowly, adding cream, butter, milk, double stuffed, etc.  Yesterday, I decided to jazz it up a bit.  I made baked potatoes with cream and avocado!  I recently tried this at my first visit to La Carne’ Grill.  At first I was confused by the idea, but the taste was amazing!  It makes sense, avocado is a fat.  The only hesitation I would have had would be that the avocado would be hot (which would make it turn black), but it was room temperature.  Mix the avocado with some warm mashed potatoes and voila!  I still have many more combinations to try.  I get my inspiration from the leftover ingredients that we are given at school on a given day.  I am sure to have some flops along the way, but spicing up a pretty bland ingredient taps into my creative nature which i am excited to keep on discovering, and sharing with you!