Who's Cooking: Karen Gelbwaks, Wantagh

Karen Gelbwaks, of Wantagh, makes her lasagna with Karen Gelbwaks, of Wantagh, makes her lasagna with eggplant and zucchini instead of noodles. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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KAREN GELBWAKS

A homemaker and recent empty nester, she lives in Wantagh with her husband, Jeffrey.

 

How did you start cooking?

My mother cooked out of necessity, but when I was in seventh grade, I took a cooking class in this woman's home -- I went to a small, experimental school in New Jersey and it was part of the program -- and I found I loved to cook.

Were you a creative cook as a young mother?

Yes, since my son was a baby he was allergic to eggs and all kinds of nuts. So I always changed around recipes so he could eat them.

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How did your love of cooking translate to feeding your family?

I really devoted myself to making clean, healthy food for my son and daughter. I did it gradually, never forced it on them. When they were little they didn't want to eat whole-wheat bread but I made sure that the white bread was natural, with nothing artificial in it.

Now that they're out of the house, are they sticking to your path?

My proudest accomplishment is that my son, Sean [24], and daughter, Jessica [18], are serious about fitness and eat well on their own.

How do you shop?

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My husband and I eat a lot of vegetables. I don't buy everything organic -- it's expensive, but between Trader Joe's and Stop & Shop I can find what I need.

Where do you like to eat out?

We like Pier 95 in Freeport; great sangria. We eat at Fortune Wheel in Levittown, where they always have a lot of fresh Asian vegetables. Snaps in Wantagh has a great tasting menu.


EGGPLANT-ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

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2 pounds eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced (¼-inch-thick), lengthwise

2 pounds large zucchini, peeled (optional) and thinly sliced (¼-inch-thick) lengthwise

Olive oil

Kosher salt

1 cup tomato sauce, homemade or jarred

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8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed, or 8 ounces shredded mozzarella, divided

½ cup grated Parmesan, divided

 

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place eggplant and zucchini slices on baking sheets lined with parchment or nonstick foil. Sprinkle tops of slices with olive oil and salt. Roast for 10 minutes, turn slices over, sprinkle again with olive oil and salt, and cook for additional 8 minutes. Vegetables should be soft but not falling apart. (Depending on oven size, you may have to do this in batches.)

2. Turn oven down to 400 degrees. In the bottom of an 8-by-11-inch baking dish, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce. Cover sauce with half the eggplant. Scatter one-quarter of the mozzarella over the eggplant, then sprinkle with one-quarter of the Parmesan cheese. Continue with a thin layer of sauce, half the zucchini, one-quarter of the mozzarella, one-quarter of the Parmesan, more sauce, the remaining eggplant, more mozzarella, more Parmesan, more sauce, the remaining zucchini, and then, finally, the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

3. Bake lasagna for 20 minutes, until it is hot throughout and cheese has melted and turned golden. Let cool slightly before serving. Makes 6 servings.

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