It’s almost a year since COVID changed our lives, and I’ve “attended” more cooking classes than I did the year before. And all without leaving my house!
Last week, our local chapter of Hadassah, the more than 100-year-old Women’s Zionist Organization of America, hosted a delightful presentation by Emma Gabay, founder and creator of inspiredfoody.com, a food blog dedicated to proving “that the kitchen is not a scary place and making a meal isn’t as hard as it seems.” But that’s not all. She also has a full-time job as brand manager with Hawke Media, a marketing agency, as well as her own full-time business, Cuiscene Studio, doing food photography and videography.
“I’m not a professional, I didn’t go to culinary school, but I believe anyone can become an expert,” she told me. “You just need a little inspiration. You don’t need to have fancy equipment and ingredients. I show people how to use what they have in the house. You can use the same ingredients and make things different every single time.”
Gabay’s trajectory into the world of food was almost accidental.
“I was going to Duke, and my best friend was telling me about her new job working for Tess Masters, The Blender Girl, and wanted help with revamping her social media presence with recipe videos. Since I specialized in video work, she asked if I could help her create ‘tasty-style’ videos of The Blender Girl’s recipes,” Gabay said. “I lied through my teeth and said that I knew how. I called my grandpa to send me camera equipment and researched everything there was to know about how to make ‘tasty videos,’ and I began filming on the floor of my apartment.
“I learned to cook based on her recipes,” Gabay said. “Then I started creating my own recipes, and I became known as the ‘food girl’ at Duke, and slowly but surely I became The Inspired Foody.”
Gabay credits her mom as being her biggest inspiration.
“I always used to get in the kitchen, not necessarily cooking with her, but eating and tasting. Now I’ll ask her, ‘How did you make this dish?’ ‘How did you make that dish?’” Gabay said. “My mom is also a cookbook collector, which has turned me into a cookbook collector. I’m definitely open to all cuisines, but typically I go the Middle Eastern route.”
The coronavirus has not slowed this whirlwind down.
“At Hawke everything is remote,” Gabay said. “Cuiscene Studio has done really well, because restaurants and cookbook authors and bloggers need more eyeballs, and what better way to get that than to create content for them. And my food blog has seen a huge spike, especially for organizations and corporate offices that need more ideas for bonding events for employees.”
For her Zoom presentation, Gabay taught us how to make shakshuka, a popular Middle Eastern dish featuring poached eggs in a hearty, spiced tomato and pepper sauce, which I have enjoyed in restaurants, but have never made.
Her sauce is the Moroccan mezze tomato salad called Matbucha.
“You’re going to make it, and you’re never going to order it out again,” she promised. “That’s what I love to do, show people what you order out can easily be made at home more cheaply, and with bigger portions, plus you make your house smell really good.”
Fullerton’s Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook.” Her website is cookingjewish.com.
From Emma Gabay of inspiredfoody.com
Yield: 3 to 6 servings
- 8 to 9 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper
- 4 to 6 jalapeños
- 12 garlic cloves
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
- 3 tablespoons sweet paprika in oil
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Salt, to taste
- 6 large eggs, unbeaten
- Cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Dried oregano (optional)
1. Pour tomatoes into large, deep saucepan. Do not turn on heat.
2. Dice bell pepper, jalapeños, and garlic cloves very finely or pulse in food processor. Add to pan.
3. On medium heat, sauté veggies 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and add oil, paprika, sugar and salt. Cook 5 minutes more.
4. With back of a wooden spoon, make 6 “nests” in the sauce. Crack eggs into the nests, and cook, covered, 8 to 10 minutes more, depending on how you like your eggs. Remove from heat and garnish with cilantro and/or oregano.