Today’s post is the second is a series about my favorite home cooks. (Click here to read the first.) Today’s favorite foodie is Leora, whose beautiful photos and paintings inspire the mind, and whose healthful, family-friendly, palate-pleasing recipes inspire my own cooking.
Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.
Professionally, I build and maintain websites. In my “spare” time, I’m a mom of 3, wife, and daughter (my eighty-year-old father lives two blocks away). I would love to be more of an artist or a potter again – my plan for when my kids are a bit older, especially my youngest. I was born in New York City and grew up in Newton, Mass. – 17 years in New Jersey hasn’t taken the New England girl out of me.
From whom did you learn to cook? (If not from a person, how?)
My first teacher was my mother (z”l). At first, she taught us how to make various recipes. When we were teens and she went back to work full-time, she showed me where my favorite recipes were listed, so I could make them for the family. She had many cookbooks, and I learned how to vary recipes to meet one’s needs (or the ingredients available in the house). My favorite recipes as a kid were lasagna and chocolate mousse.
In what style do you cook predominantly (e.g. Mediterranean, Jewish, Asian)?
I will call my style the “accommodating” style. If my kids want beef, I make beef. If they want tuna noodle casserole, we make that. When they developed a taste for Chinese food, I learned how to make homemade wontons. My husband likes bake goods, so I have learned many cake recipes since I got married. To “accommodate” myself, I’ve been making a variety of vegan dishes, especially cooked salads like umeboshi radishes or cole slaw with ginger or mustard. I also enjoy making soup – I make a variety of pareve soups, and my family’s favorite is my chicken soup.
What dietary guidelines do you observe (kashrut, vegetarian, vegan, Paleolithic diet)?
We keep kosher. I am lactose intolerant, so I rarely cook with milk. I never use trans fats in cooking.
What are your favorite foods? What food aversions do you have?
Favorite – those cooked radishes seasoned with umeboshi paste. Also, organic chicken cooked with orange and herbs and served on a bed of brown rice. Food aversion to milk – it makes me gag. This has been true since childhood, when “they” told me that white smelly stuff was somehow supposed to be good for me. My boys have been trained to empty their cereal bowls before putting them in the sink, so my contact with milk can be minimized.
What is your relationship to your kitchen, to food, to cooking?
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” – I don’t like much bought food, anyway, so I might as well enjoy being in the kitchen. Blogging about food helps me connect with others who feel similarly.
What do you think cooking and food say about identity?
“You are what you eat, from your head to your feet.” That’s from Pajama Sam, one of the software programs my kids used to play. I do spend a lot of time monitoring what I eat, for health reasons. But I also get tempted easily by fatty meat or by chocolate… yum. I love my own cakes, especially blueberry or peach cake. As we go to a Sephardi shul, I have learned about foods from some of those countries, like from Turkey or Morocco. I can never remember the names, but food is a wonderful way for Jews from eastern countries to keep their traditions. The foods from Eastern Europe, well, I’m not exactly a kugel lover. My mother, who was born in Russia, used to sometimes make borscht; my contribution to the Russian tradition of beet-making is fresh beet salad.
Please share one of your favorite recipes, either from a blog post or from your own repertoire.
I have 77 posts with recipes, and you ask me to pick ONE? Oh, dear. Here’s a post with soup recipes, which has a wonderful illustration (by me):