Cooking with Karli

By Karli Efron 

Karli Efron loves to watch true crime documentaries and consistently gets crushed at Scrabble when playing her husband, Jay. She has been known to host epic dance parties with her daughters, Adele and Miriam. She has lived in Maine since 1999 and has found a real home with Bet Ha’am!

Professionally, Efron serves as Field Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Social Work at Saint Joseph’s College.

Here’s the story of how her cooking adventure began:

Long before the pandemic, I was listening to a podcast put out by Kveller about Jewish parenting.  One of the guests was chef and restaurant/bakery owner, Einat Admony.  I immediately related to her stories around getting her children to try new foods – and if a renowned chef was having trouble getting her kids to add variety to their diets, I wasn’t going to feel so guilty about my kids’ standard of mac’n’cheese and apple slices.  Following the podcast, I purchased her cookbook, Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love.  Her recipe for shakshuka immediately became a standard in our house and whenever I wanted to try something new, I’d give the cookbook a poke and use my family as my taste testers.

Fast forward to April, 2020.  It had become abundantly clear the dangers of COVID were going to become a part of our day-to-day lives and I turned to cooking to help ease my anxieties.  It truly was by accident that I found myself cooking my way through Balaboosta – but it just kind of… happened.  I started to post photos of my adventure online, learning more about the history of the spices I was using, reaching out to specialty markets I had never been to before for ingredients I couldn’t find (Foodie Friends Grocery & Restaurant in Portland is PHENOMENAL), and even started to message back-and-forth with Einat Admony herself with questions I had.  The morning I woke up to see that she was sharing my cooking adventures on her Instagram page had me fangirling like it was 1990 and I was at a New Kids on the Block concert!

My house is now filled with jars of spice mixes, preserved lemons, homemade labne & hummus, and random lists of recipes to try and recipe adjustments to make.  Adele, my 8-year-old daughter, has helped me with a number of recipes (though, still refuses to eat them) and I’ve been attending zoom classes left, right, and center about Israeli cooking, ethically sourced spices, and how food connects to social justice.  This random project to cope with anxiety has become a whole new way I look at, and experience, the food I make and share with the ones I love!  I was recently gifted Einat Admony’s newest book, Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking, and cannot wait to venture to the summer farmer’s market to take on new dishes.

Miriam, my toddler, has developed a habit of waking up before the sun.  While attempting to wake up with her one morning, I decided to try making Fenugreek Fried Bread (the smells are INCREDIBLE).  A batch of this bread slathered with labne with a couple of eggs made the ridiculous wake-up hour almost bearable and I highly recommend it on cold nights when you are craving all the carbs!

Fenugreek Fried Bread (makes about 16 pieces)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for the work surface and dough
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek (you’ll need to go to a specialty store or order online)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • Canola oil
  1. Whisk together 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the fenugreek leaves, salt, and turmeric in a large bowl.  Make a large well in the center of the bowl and add the yeast, remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 cup of the warm water.  Let the mixture stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon canola oil in a small bowl and mix it in with the fenugreek mixture.  Sprinkle some flour on your work surface, scrape the dough out of the bowl, and knead it until smooth and elastic.  Slick another bowl with a little bit of oil and place the dough inside.  Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of oil for frying in a deep skillet or pot.  Dust your hands and the work surface with flour.  To shape the bread, cut a golf-ball-sized piece from the dough and form it into a disk about the size of your palm.  Repeat with the rest of the dough and line up the disks on the floured surface.  When the oil is hot enough, gently drop them into the pan one by one.  Always work in small batches to keep your oil from getting too cold.  Fry the bread for 1 to 2 minutes, turn them over, and cook for another minute, until gold brown.

The attached photo is from the morning I decided to make Fried Fenugreek Bread!

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