By Amy Spiro

Who is 6-foot-11, worth an estimated $100 million, and loves cholent?

If you guessed New York Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, you’d be right. The 31-year-old NBA star, whose interest in his recently discovered Jewish roots has been well documented, published his first cookbook today. Co-written with his personal chef Maxcel Hardy, Cooking with Amar’e reflects Stoudemire’s self-described mostly kosher eating habits—the cookbook contains no pork, lobster, shrimp, or crab dishes, though there is a recipe pan-seared scallops. A handful of recipes call for both meat and dairy ingredients, though most could be adapted for kosher audiences.

After beginning with a section on the essentials—from vegetable stock to marinara sauce and tomato salsa—the recipes run the gamut, ranging from sweet potato waffles to roasted vegetable and goat cheese flatbreads; grilled strip streak with horseradish cream and sauteed mushrooms; and Caribbean pan-seared snapper escovitch. Each recipe is ranked by its difficulty, from “layup” (easiest) to “jump shot” and “slam dunk” (hardest). Stoudemire, the father of four and part-owner of the Israeli basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem, hired Hardy five years ago, and the chef said the basketball player was eager to learn his way around the kitchen to feed his family, his friends, and his teammates.

“He loves to get in the kitchen and have fun,” Hardy told me, “and he’s very serious at the same time, because he really has a passion for learning culinary and understanding all the pieces of being a chef.”

Hardy, who owns a Miami-based catering company, has had to adapt to a few curve balls in Stoudemire’s diet over the years, from occasional bouts of vegetarianism, veganism, raw foods, juicing, and the time he announced he was keeping kosher after his 2010 trip to Israel.

“At first it was just kind of making sure we bought kosher products and try to keep kosher as much as possible,” Hardy explained. “As the years have progressed, we’ve been more attuned to doing Shabbat dinners, Passover and Rosh Hashanah… but it’s also important to keep [Stoudemire] happy because he’s not so used to the traditional holidays and fasting and so forth, so I have to do some of the things he likes and also keep it in tune with the holiday.”

Instead of a traditional brisket, for example, Hardy will make a barbecue short rib for Shabbat (recipe below), a dish that the book notes can be prepared ahead of time.

As for the more traditional dishes? “Carrot tzimmes is one of my favorites, cholent is by far one of my favorite dishes to make as well, I got him eating both of those,” Hardy said. “Potato kugel I do quite often—the kids love that.”

When it comes to Stoudemire’s cholent, Hardy pulls out all the stops. He’ll throw in “a whole brisket and some beans, onions, garlic, and just let it stew down and serve it over a couscous or a quinoa,” he said. (While Stoudemire’s kosher diet may have been a surprise, Hardy was well-prepared—his first job out of culinary school was working for a glatt kosher catering company that worked at bar mitzvahs and synagogue events.)

Stoudemire’s beloved Shabbat dinners and holiday meals include family, close friends, and even teammates. “It’s pretty cool to see some of these holidays where they’re not traditional sit-down Shabbat dinners,” Hardy said. “It’s more of a kind of entertaining, and he reads the Bible and scriptures and so forth; it’s very interesting.”

Next up for Stoudemire—other than a possible bar mitzvah? He’s hosting a five-day basketball camp for teens in Tel Aviv in July.

Braised Barbecued Beef Ribs
Serves 6-8
Reprinted with permission from Cooking with Amare, published by HarperCollins

6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 1⁄4 pounds)
1 large Spanish onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, cut in half and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup hearty red wine
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
2 bay leaves
2 lemons, sliced into rings
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil

Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a very large stockpot with olive oil. If you don’t have a pot large enough to hold all the meat and vegetables, divide them between two pots. Set the pot over high heat.

Add the short ribs to the pot and brown them very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

While the short ribs are browning, puree the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and cilantro in a food processor until a coarse paste forms.

When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Pour off the fat into a small, heatproof bowl. (You can dispose of it when it cools down.) Coat the bottom of the same pan with about 1/4 cup of additional oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown them on medium-low for 5-7 minutes, or until they are softened.

Add the tomato paste. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and vegetable stock, and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, for about 10 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Lower the heat if the mixture starts to burn.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add the barbecue sauce. Add the thyme bundle and the
bay leaves.

Cover the pan and bake for 2 hours, checking periodically and adding more stock if the meat seems to be drying out. Turn the ribs over after 90 minutes. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking so the meat gets nice and brown and the sauce is reduced. When the meat is very tender but not falling apart, remove it from the oven. Remove the bay leaves. Serve it with the braising liquid. Garnish with lemon slices.

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