LIA SOSCIA

She is chef-owner of Home Cooking Consultant and lives in North Bellmore with her husband, Michael, and daughter, Alexandra, 18.

How did you get interested in cooking? I lived with my grandparents when I was growing up, and my grandfather was the head sales rep for Progresso. So I was around people who cooked and ate all day.

So you got interested very young? At about 8 years old.

Were there any special foods in your family's culture? Yes. We had a boat, and we used to go out on the bay, out to Fire Island. We'd go fishing, and we'd get buckets and buckets of clams. You'd have baked clams, steamed clams, clams in your pasta . . .

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What about your daughter?Does she like to cook? She cooks with me. She likes to dabble. She likes to make sushi. But I do most of the cooking.

What's your first advice to beginning cooks? Read your recipe from start to finish before you start to cook. People turn on the stove, and things start to burn because they haven't done their prep work. Also, start with simple stuff. I start by teaching things like how to sear a piece of meat, how to make a pan sauce.

Do you have a favorite restaurant? I like Jaiya Thai on Old Country Road in Hicksville.-- Linda Perney


THAI-STYLE BEEF SALAD IN LETTUCE CUPS

4 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (juice of 3 to 4 limes) or to taste

1 clove garlic, minced

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1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or Thai red chilis, minced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound flank steak about 3/4-inch thick, trimmed

11/2 tablespoons canola oil

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1/4 cup packed whole fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup packed whole fresh cilantro leaves

2 medium shallots, peeled and cut into very thin slices

1 English cucumber, cut into matchsticks (see Note)

6 to 8 green onions, tops only, cut into very thin slices

1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce separated into lettuce cups

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Bottled Thai-style sweet chili sauce, for garnish

Bottled Asian dipping sauce (also sold as "dumpling sauce" or "gyoza sauce"), for garnish

1. Whisk together the smaller amount of fish sauce and lime juice with garlic, sugar and red pepper flakes. Add more juice and sauce to taste, if desired. Set aside.

2. Rub soy sauce into both sides of the flank steak; marinate at room temperature 30 minutes. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Rub steak with oil and grill until rare, about 1 minute per side or until an instant-read thermometer registers 125 degrees in the center of the steak; do not overcook or the meat will be very tough. Set aside to cool. (Steak can also be cooked in the broiler or on an outdoor grill.)

3. Slice the grilled meat on the diagonal into 2-inch-long pieces; slice as thinly as possible, approximately 1/16-inch thick, or meat will be very tough.

4. Pour lime dressing over meat, then toss with mint, cilantro, shallots, cucumber, and green onions. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired, adding additional fish sauce, lime juice and crushed red pepper.

5. Place the lettuce cups on a tray along with a bowl of the beef salad, sauces and sunflower seeds.

6. Fill a lettuce leaf with a small amount of the salad. Drizzle with Thai sweet chili sauce or Asian dipping sauce, if desired, and top with sunflower seeds. Wrap leaf around beef. Makes 4 servings.

Note: English cucumbers have a delicate skin that does not have to be removed; they are also seedless. You could substitute two or three Persian or Mediterranean cucumbers, which have the same qualities, but are smaller. Or use regular kirby cukes, but peel them and seed them.