An art teacher at St. Agnes Academic High School in College Point, Queens, she lives in New Hyde Park with her husband and younger daughter.
How long have you been cooking?
I'm married 31 years, and I've been cooking since I got married. I was always around food. I had an Italian grandmother who bottled tomatoes, and my job was putting basil in the jars. That's when I was 8. My mother cooked every night. She was a homemaker and also a chef for many years at my aunt's seafood restaurant in Howard Beach. Every summer, all of the nieces and nephews worked there. I was cleaning mussels at the age of 16, doing a lot of prep work.
During the day, you teach art. Does your job influence your cooking?
On a busy day, I teach five or six classes to teenagers, helping them be creative. When I come home, I can be creative in the kitchen for myself and family. But I cook at school, too. I started a cooking club for the girls. Each session, we have a different ethnic theme. We've done Indian, Mexican, Greek, Italian, German and Chinese cuisine. Our student population is very diverse, and the students get excited about sharing the food that they know. And we teach cooking techniques, too. It is a nice way to expose kids to food and cooking.
Where else do you get new recipes?
I watch the Food Network. I love Jacques Pepin and Ina Garten. Interestingly, my daughters, who grew up with my cooking, now give me ideas when they experiment. My older daughter, who is a newlywed, will text me that she's making pulled pork with root beer in a slow cooker. My younger daughter has gotten really into healthy cooking, so she teaches me things, too. Recently I made turkey Bolognese over spaghetti squash from her cookbook.
Any tips on making this recipe? To caramelize the onions, cook them low and slow. And don't add the garlic until the onions are just about done, or it will get bitter. You can stuff the mushrooms in advance and refrigerate them for a day or two. Don't skip the olive oil at the end. It will help brown the mushrooms and keep the filling moist.
CRAB STUFFED MUSHROOMS WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 pound large white mushrooms
3 garlic cloves minced
8 ounces lump crab meat
1 to 1½ cups plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened. Add a ¼ teaspoon of sugar to onions and cook, stirring often, until caramelized.
2. Wash mushrooms and trim away the hard ends of the stems. Carefully take the rest of the stems off and chop them finely.
3. Add the mushroom stems and minced garlic to the caramelized onions and sauté until tender.
4. In a large bowl combine the onion mixture, crabmeat, bread crumbs, cheese, lemon zest and juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Melt remaining three tablespoons of butter and add to the mix.
5. Place mushroom caps into well greased baking dish. Fill the caps with the mixture, pressing down to fill each one generously.
6. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the mushrooms before baking to help brown them.
7. Bake until browned on top and hot throughout, 30 to 45 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with lemon wedges.
Serves 12 to 24 as an appetizer, 6 to 8 as a main course.