Ramon lives in Dix Hills with her husband, Julio, and works as an executive assistant in a real estate company. She has a 10-year-old stepdaughter and is expecting her first child.
What are your first memories of the kitchen? Both my mother and grandmother liked to cook, and I remember waking up on weekends to the aroma of big pots of sauce. My friends used to come over: "Is your grandma cooking?" they'd ask. "Is your mom cooking?" I used to take a piece of bread and try the sauce.
Do you still use their recipes? I don't think either of them ever had a recipe written down. But I'm actually in the process of developing a cookbook, which includes some of their recipes I've been able to re-create. I created them from scratch - it took me forever. My husband said, ''You have nothing written down,'' so I put together 40 recipes and took them to a friend of mine who is a printer.
Are most of the recipes Italian? No, not really. I have a little bit of everything in there, including an avocado dish I tasted in Spain.
But your cooking is grounded in your mother and grandmother's tradition. Are there many ways in which you think your cooking differs from theirs? Yes. I think I use more seasoning than they did. I tend to bring together more flavors. I use garlic, but I also use a lot of capers. I also use olives; they add a ton of flavor. They can really make a dish pop.
What about actual preparation? Any big differences there? Yes. They used to fry everything, and I don't fry anything.
Do you have a favorite restaurant? Yes. Café Testarossa in Syosset. The food is consistently good. I don't think I've ever had a bad meal there.
Pork Chops with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
4 center-cut pork chops
½ cup water
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
2 cups marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/4 cup small green olives with pimento
Ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste (optional)
1. Heat olive oil, garlic and Italian seasoning over medium heat. Slightly brown the garlic.
2.Add the pork chops and water. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes on each side.
3. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers and olives. Partially cover the pot and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
4. Transfer the pork chops to a serving platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add an even amount of sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts over each chop, and serve.Serves 4