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The Balabusta Next Door: Meet Marnie

Rainbow Orzo Salad

It’s an interesting twist of fate that Marnie cooks mostly Syrian foods nowadays—she wouldn’t have predicted that growing up as an all-American Ashkenazi girl in New Jersey. Her father and extended family were all in the food service business—catering, prepared foods, baked goods, and deli were the backdrop of her life. Though her mother came from American stock, she was a versatile and broad cook. Marnie fondly remembers her mother’s foray into Oriental cooking and the many Sundays she’d return home bearing bags of food to cook and entertain. “As a kid I found my mother’s cooking style motivating and exciting.”

When Marnie married, her kitchen IQ gained a boost under the direction of her Moroccan mother-in-law. Her status as a successful wife and kitchen pro were confirmed when Pesach during her first year of marriage arrived. After preparing and serving alongside her mother-in-law, her husband’s family couldn’t tell who had cooked what—the ultimate compliment.

Marnie’s generous style is somewhat compromised these days due to a recent move to a house whose oven can only accommodate one 9 x 13 pan! Before her move, Marnie went professional, preparing privately ordered Shabbos meals and mouth watering Syrian mazzah (hors d’oeuvres). Until she can return to cooking for the masses, she’s busy caring for and feeding her young family and trying to get them to be more adventurous eaters. “I’m ‘The Frustrated Gourmet!’ Everyone loves my food but my kids won’t eat!”

Among Marnie’s signature recipes are her lehme b’agines (small, sweet and savory meat pizzas), creamy garlic, tangy citrus, and creamy cumin salad dressings and her legendary chicken nuggets. “I put so much love into it—it has to be good. It’s a Kabbalistic concept; what you put in is what you take out. If you put love in your bread, your children will be eating love. They feel it and it’s there—whether they taste it or not.”

Rainbow Orzo Salad

Mediterranean Quinoa