The retired owner of a specialty baking business, Perfect Endings, is the mother of a grown son, three stepdaughters and three grandchildren. She lives in North Babylon with her husband, Herman. 

Why did you get interested in cooking? Out of sheer necessity. My mother's cooking skills left a bit to be desired. What Jewish mother doesn't know how to make chicken soup? My mother's used to taste like hot boiled water. Fortunately, my then mother-in-law took me under her wing and taught me how to create an edible meal. By looking at a recipe I could determine whether it would be interesting to try. After one preparation, I would be able to make minor adjustments to the basic recipe to better suit my family's taste. My husband prefers eating at home since he feels that my meals are equal to - if not better than - restaurant food.

Do you have a favorite restaurant? For good food, friendly atmosphere and reasonable pricing, our favorite is Parkwood Cafe in West Islip.

Is there an ingredient you can't get along without? I can't get along without onion and garlic. I can't do a recipe without them.

Is there a special kind of pot that you like to use? I used to use Le Creuset, but about two years ago, I had spinal surgery, and those pots are very heavy. So I modified my recipes, and now I use a slow cooker once or twice a week.

Are there any particular ethnic cuisines you're interested in? This is my second marriage. My first husband and I traveled a lot, and I got interested in international cuisine - wherever we went I would try to duplicate the food. We lived in South America for 2 1/2 years, and I picked up on a lot about herbs and spices, using fresh ingredients.

Are there any cookbooks you particularly like? I'm not one for cutting out recipes. I look at a recipe to see if it's practical, to see if it's something I want to try. I have a whole slew of cookbooks. I started out with "Grand Diplome," and I learned a lot from that.

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What can you tell us about this recipe? I adapted this from a recipe years ago. Who knew about balsamic vinegar then? Or tomato paste in a tube?

What advice would you give someone who's just learning to cook? Don't go crazy. Start with the basics. Take your favorite ingredients, your favorite tastes, and learn to embellish them. If you have a friend or a family member who really knows how to cook, ask them how they make things. That's the best way to learn.

STEAK SAN MARCO

2 1/2 pounds flank steak (cut into thin strips)*

1-2 red bell peppers (cut into thin strips)

Feed Me

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 package onion soup mix

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 large can plum tomatoes in puree

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2 tablespoons tomato paste

Oregano, granulated garlic powder, red pepper flakes to taste

1. Place all ingredients in large covered Dutch oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours over medium-low heat. Or use slow cooker and cook on high setting for 4 hours.

2. Serve with rice, noodles or orzo. Makes 4 servings.

*To slice flank steak more easily, place in freezer for one hour before slicing.

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Know a great home cook? Write WHO'S COOKING, Food Dept., Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4250, or Linda Perney at lperney@worldnet.att.net