June 20, 2021


Do it with Food.

Wonderful Escapes: What Kubeh Chef and ‘Chopped’ Winner Melanie Shurka Is Cooking at House

5 min read

Melanie Shurka’s
appreciate of kubeh laid the basis for her beloved Greenwich Village eatery named soon after the Middle Japanese delicacy. The self-taught chef 1st tasted the dumplings as a teen when her Iraqi boyfriend’s mom well prepared a floor beef and beet broth version. Later, in her 20s, she lived in Israel and arrived to know kubeh when once more when she rediscovered the dish on cafe menus. 

“I fell in like with kubeh because of the compactness of taste in a little chunk, particularly the variation served in a soup,” Shurka suggests. “The soup has one flavor, the kubeh has yet another, and at the time the kubeh is open up within the soup, alongside one another they take on a different taste.”

Born in Brooklyn and lifted in Great Neck, New York, Shurka, 39, graduated from NYU and obtained her legislation degree from New York Law School, so a foray into the culinary environment wasn’t exactly the envisioned. But her colourful heritage—her mother is Ashkenazi Jewish and from Extensive Island, and her father was born in Israel to Iranian parents—planted the seed. 

“I grew up with a Persian history, and feeding on Israeli-Persian food stuff,” Shurka claims. In her youth, she didn’t distinguish any big difference among Israeli and Persian tradition since the two were being the pretty material of her upbringing. “I did not know there was a big difference concerning Farsi and Hebrew,” she provides. 

But it was her lifelong affinity for Israel—both the nation and cuisine—that motivated her to create a small business close to kubeh and other vintage Middle Eastern favorites this sort of as rooster shawarma, muhammara, and lamb baharat. “I wished to deliver all those flavors to New York.”

Publish regulation school, Shurka spent time in house kitchens cooking with Kurdish and Syrian women of all ages in Israel. “It was truly magical,” she muses. “I ate kubeh 3 moments a working day and arrived home with all that I realized.” 

Shurka took the most effective components of many recipes she experimented with in people kitchens, in the long run developing her own interpretations of the savory dumplings, including Kurdish gradual-cooked beef and Iraqi mushroom, each available in a assortment of mouth watering broths at her restaurant.

In August 2020, Shurka competed on the Food Community hit actuality show Chopped. As a Center Japanese prepare dinner, she was not positive if her pantry of spices would be out there (she loves whipping up dishes seasoned with sumac, cumin, and cardamom). Despite the essential components, she trapped with the methods and flavors she is aware of well, introducing Center Eastern nuances into just about every of the 3 classes, in the long run winning Chopped and donating the $10,000 prize to Syrian refugees. 

Throughout spring 2020, when New York was to start with battling the wrath of Covid-19, Shurka and her workforce recognized donations and well prepared and shipped in excess of 1,000 meals to nearby hospitals. Accomplishing so enabled her to feed frontline workers, use additional aid, and keep her enterprise afloat in the course of the most tough period. Much more not long ago, she and her partner David (also her enterprise spouse) invested in an outdoor setup at Kubeh—banquettes with roofs, gutters, and higher-powered heaters due to the fact outdoor eating in New York City is now permanent. She says business has been finding up lately, despite the chilly temperature.

Due to the fact jogging a cafe leaves tiny totally free time, Shurka infrequently cooked at home prior to the pandemic. That is modified in modern months. She’s been spending much more several hours in her kitchen area, making ready healthful meals concentrating on loads of greens and smaller portions of meat and seafood when avoiding dairy, gluten, grains, and sugar. Underneath is a range of refreshing, balanced dishes that the Kubeh chef is making from her residence kitchen in Brooklyn.


Courtesy Melanie Shurka

Persian Shakshuka. “In a significant pan with a glass include, sauté onion until finally translucent, introducing garlic, spinach, and mushrooms, mixing constantly. After spinach has wilted, increase chopped dill, parsley, salt, pepper, and mix right up until tender. Add a lot more salt and pepper as needed to style. Go all veggies to the edges in a circle (clearing the pan’s centre) and sprinkle feta on top rated.

“Add a touch of grapeseed oil to the centre of the pan and drop two to 4 eggs in the middle, holding yolks intact. Sprinkle salt and pepper on eggs and address the pan, allowing the eggs prepare dinner on minimal until eventually the white is set and yolks are however runny. I make a dish like this just about every day for lunch utilizing whichever veggies and herbs I have on hand.” 

Zucchini Pasta Bolognese. “Using a spiralizer, spiralize contemporary zucchini with no skin into a fettuccine shape. Sauté zucchini with garlic and new basil in a touch of oil until finally pasta is translucent, adding sea salt for flavor. 

“Serve the zucchini pasta with beef Bolognese (a sauce of floor meat, pureed tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaves, nutmeg, and white wine) on top.”  

Cauliflower Rice with Sumac Shrimp and Sautéed Chickpeas. “Marinate shrimp with sumac, paprika, olive oil, lemon juice, and minced garlic. Minimize a cauliflower head into 4 and procedure in a food stuff processor until finally diced. 

“In a modest pot, sauté onion and garlic with grapeseed oil. When the onion is translucent, add a rinsed can of chickpeas, parsley, and spices, then a touch of lemon juice and drinking water and simmer on medium for about 10-15 minutes. 

“In a separate pan, sauté onion and garlic in oil. After the onion is translucent, include the cauliflower, mix it nicely, then increase salt and pepper. Address pan and enable the cauliflower rice steam for about 10 minutes. 

“Pan-sear shrimp in a Teflon pan right up until cooked as a result of, then serve with cauliflower rice with chickpea stew. Garnish with new parsley, olive oil, and pine nuts.”

Shirazi Salad & Dill Tahini. “Mix halved grape tomatoes, chopped radish, Persian cucumber, and new parsley. Then incorporate lemon and salt to style with a touch of olive oil. 

“For dill tahini, hand combine tahini paste with drinking water and lemon juice till the taste is nutty like sesame. Insert that combination, fresh dill leaves, garlic, salt, pepper, and a contact of water to a blender. Mix till smooth and thin enough to drizzle around the

Turmeric Turkey Patties. “Mix floor turkey, chopped onion, minced garlic, clean mint, parsley, sea salt, black pepper, floor turmeric, and cumin with egg. Variety the combination into balls and pan sear in oil till cooked through. 

“I like to make a meatball size and try to eat them in a pita, in excess of rice or salad. These are so delightful and healthier. My Persian grandmother always experienced a variation of these in the fridge, completely ready to be warmed up.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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