Dave Ryan, a teacher at Hunter Business School at Medford, lives in Smithtown.

How long have you been cooking?

The story goes that I started cooking when I was 2 years old. We lived in East Setauket. The kitchen was in the front of the house and the den was in the back of the house. One night I came back into the den and kept grabbing my mother's arm and saying "bacon." She told me she'd make me some in the morning for breakfast, but I was very insistent. So she finally got up and we went to the kitchen. I had taken bacon out of the refrigerator, taken one of the copper gelatin molds we had, put some bacon in it, and put it on the top of the stove.

Who inspired your love of cooking?

My great-grandmother, grandmothers and mother were great cooks. When both grandmothers passed away I got hold of each of their family cookbooks. My father's side of the family had a real sweet tooth, and I still make some of Granny's cookie and cake recipes.

Dave Ryan's key lime pie. You can substitute regular lime juice for the key lime juice, he says. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Why do you like making desserts?

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I cook everything, but I'm mostly known for desserts. When I was an aide to Suffolk County Legislator Lynne Nowick, the legislators would take turns supplying breakfast for monthly meetings. The first time we did it, I had just started working for Lynne. I said, "We should do a whole patriotic theme for Memorial Day." Not only did we have red, white and blue plates and napkins, I decided we were going to have an eagle, made out of fruit. I made tea cakes, soda bread, banana bread, blondies, brownies. I'd make blueberry muffins, apple muffins, piña colada muffins for the breakfasts. We would have a whole conference table filled with home baked goods. When people knew it was Lynne's turn, they wanted to be first in line for the food.

I teach at night. My students look forward to my blondies. In March, I made more than 50 loaves of soda bread to give to colleagues, students, friends, neighbors. People look forward to my soda bread, which is particularly moist.

What do you like about this recipe?

It's not that heavy. It's cool, it's refreshing. People look at it and say, "I'll take a little piece."

Where do you get key limes?

Feed Me

Occasionally I'll see them in the supermarket and buy some for juice. But usually I buy bottled key lime juice, which you can usually find where the mixers are. You can also substitute regular lime juice for the key lime juice.

Any tips for success?

The biggest thing is you have to be very careful when incorporating the whipped egg whites so they don't deflate. Fold them in gently until you don't see any of the white streaks.

 

KEY LIME PIE

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For the crust:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

5 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:

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3 eggs

1/2 cup key lime juice

Pinch salt

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Pinch cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Make crust: Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in small bowl. Press into a 9-inch pie plate and bake for 5 minutes. Cool completely. (Alternatively, you can use a pre-made graham-cracker-crust pie shell from the baking aisle.)

2. Make the filling: Separate two of the eggs, placing the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Reserve yolks in another bowl. To the yolks, add the remaining whole egg, juice, salt and sweetened condensed milk. Mix well.

3. Whip the egg whites until stiff but not dry, adding the cream of tartar after 20 seconds. Gently fold whites into lime mixture. Pour into cooled shell and bake until set, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 4 hours and up to 2 weeks. Slice while frozen and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.