DIANA PODOLNICK

A widow, Diana works as a registered nurse and lives in Stony Brook. Her five children and stepchildren are all grown.

How did you get interested in cooking?

My grandmother was a wonderful cook who did everything by eye. My mother wasn't much of a cook, so I used to watch my grandmother and try to mimic her.

What kind of cooking did she do?

Pure European Jewish food. Dishes that came from what she always called the Old Country - simple, peasant food. But she did it so well.

Were there other influences on your cooking?

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Yes. I lived in Israel for a while, and I learned Middle Eastern cooking there. Everything is done from scratch there, and I became fascinated by herbs and seasonings whose names I barely knew how to pronounce. I really learned how to cook there.

When you think of Passover cooking, what are the dishes that come to mind right away?

Gefilte fish and matzo balls. I make my own gefilte fish.

Do you usually make a traditional dinner?

Not really. In my family, the main course is almost always duck a l'orange. It beats chicken.

How did this recipe for matzo brei come about?

My family all hates Passover cakes. So traditionally, our desserts are fruit kebabs. This was developed because one of my grandsons loves matzo brei. It's fun because you have to make this then and there - you have to serve it right away. The kids come into the kitchen and help. One grandson likes to put the chocolate chips on top - that's his job.

Do you watch the Food Network?

It's my favorite thing. I could sit and watch it 24 hours a day. I think I should do a matzo throwdown with Bobby Flay. He comes up with some southwestern thing, no matter what you do. Ancho chili matzo brei?

ROCKY ROAD MATZO BREI
1 jumbo egg
2 tablespoons light cream
1 board of matzo
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped marshmallows
2 tablespoons chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons shredded coconut

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1. Mix together the egg and cream. Break the matzo into small pieces and mix into the egg mixture till matzo is coated and slightly soaked.

2. Melt most of the butter in a small nonstick fry pan. Pour matzo mixture into the pan and let it coat the bottom. Fry until bottom surface is cooked enough to turn over. Slide pancake onto a plate, add remaining butter to pan, and when it melts, flip cake back into pan, unbrowned side down. Immediately place the chocolate on top and cover pan so the chocolate will soften and melt slightly. This will take about 1 minute.

3. Slide pancake onto serving plate and top with chopped pecan and marshmallow mixture. Sprinkle coconut on top. Makes 1 to 2 servings.

Orange variation: Omit cream. Add juice of one orange to the egg along with 1/4 teaspoon orange extract. Proceed as above, but instead of topping with pecans, marshmallows, chocolate chips and coconut, spread finished pancake with 1 tablespoon orange marmalade and 1 teaspoon candied orange peel. Serve with a scoop of orange or lemon sorbet. Makes 1 to 2 servings.