created at: 2014-02-06

Having grown up with two Jewish grandmothers, I’d say being a bubbie is a pretty good gig. You’re the matriarch of a family that adores you. You’re allowed to kvetch over your relatives. You’re expected to kvell over your grandchildren. And, perhaps best of all, you’re automatically awarded major points as a home cook.

I’ve written about my favorite bubbie food memories—making fall-apart brisket and eating contraband bon bons with my paternal grandmother. (My maternal grandmother also loved to keep her people well fed, just not with food she’d made herself.) I also remember going over to a friend’s house and being treated to her Russian grandmother’s kreplach and p’cha. (Or at least being served p’cha. I imagine I wasn’t the only small child who refused to try calf’s foot jelly.)

A grandmother’s own experiences shape the ones she creates for her family. It’s that diversity that’s the focus of this weekend’s fifth annual Beyond Bubbie’s Kitchen. Produced by New Center NOW, this popular event gives some of Boston’s best chefs a forum to honor their families and serve up contemporary versions of Jewish dishes.

This year’s theme is “global inspiration,” which means the offerings will include touches of other cuisines, from Cuban to Japanese. So our beloved trifecta of latkes, challah and schmaltz? Rumor has it they’ll be making appearances on the chefs’ tables, but will be dressed up as duck latkes, guava challah bread pudding knishes, and steamed schmaltz buns. There will also be lots to drink and do as you taste the chefs’ food—the event features beer and wine, chats with cookbook authors, and a marketplace with local vendors.

Last year, one of the crowd favorites was The Chubby Chickpea’s take on shakshuka by chef Avi Shemtov, who was nice enough to share his recipe here. I’ve featured shakshuka on the blog before, but Chef Shemtov’s version replaces the peppers with eggplant and olives. If that doesn’t sound like that big a difference, give it a try. The eggplant is a revelation—it bulks up the dish, creating something reminiscent of a cumin-laced caponata.

Chef Shemtov will be returning for this weekend’s Beyond Bubbie’s Kitchen, and I can’t wait to see how he and his fellow chefs honor their bubbies while exhibiting how diverse their food can be.

Courtesy of Avi Shemtov of The Chubby Chickpea

Serves 3

8 cloves fresh garlic
1 cup olive oil
4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup raw eggplant
½ cup kalamata olives
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 head flat parsley, chopped
4 ounces soft cheese, such as goat cheese
6 large eggs
Crusty bread, for serving

1. In food processor, blend together garlic and olive oil.

2. Transfer garlic mixture to cast iron skillet or ovenproof medium skillet. Add diced tomatoes and onions. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Add eggplant, salt, parsley and olives. Simmer until vegetables have softened, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Drop soft cheese sparingly over vegetable mixture. Using a spoon, create six evenly spaced pockets in mixture and carefully crack one egg into each.

5. Transfer pan to oven and bake until eggs have reached desired consistency. Serve with bread for dipping.