A Nassau County probation officer, she lives on the South Shore with the man in her life, Fredy Cevallos, her daughter, Lindsay, 29, and her son David, 21, a college student in Albany. Her son Peter, 31, lives in Island Park.
Where did you get your passion for cooking? My father was my role model when it came to cooking. He was my primary caregiver because he was in construction and got home early. He cooked basic Italian peasant food - I loved his peppers, potatoes and eggs in a frittata. When we'd go to Jones Beach, we'd take that. Everyone else would have their Wonder Bread sandwiches, but we'd have these greasy sandwiches on Italian bread.
What food traditions do you keep in your family now? I always try to have Sunday dinner. My kids come over; Fredy's children come over. That sense of belonging and family and routine - kids need that. When I was a kid we'd go to my grandmother's, and it'd be macaroni and gravy. These days I make roast beef or quesadillas - they love all that Mexican stuff - or I'll make pulled pork. In the summer, it's grilled skirt steaks.
Tell me about your new recipe box. It's a beautiful wooden recipe box from Williams-Sonoma that's embossed "From the Kitchen of Barbara Blumenthal." It's so touching that my daughter decided to give this to me. Now I'm writing my recipes out by hand so I can pass them on to her.
What's special about your eggplant Parmesan? It's a sentimental favorite. Whenever my daughter has been away or is down in the dumps, she loves to have my eggplant Parmesan. This is more about what makes family feel good than "entertaining cooking."
3 medium eggplants
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon table salt
All-purpose flour for dredging
2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup vegetable oil, or more as needed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded 8 ounces ricotta cheese
2 cups tomato sauce
1. Peel eggplants and slice lengthwise in half-inch slices. Place on paper-towel-lined platter, sprinkle each layer with kosher salt and cover with paper towels to absorb the liquid; this takes about an hour. Rinse and dry the slices.
2. Whisk eggs with 1 teaspoon of table salt in a bowl.
3. Pour half of each type of oil into a large frying pan and heat to medium-high heat.
4. Put flour and bread crumbs on separate pieces of wax paper. Dredge eggplant slices in flour, shake off excess, then dip in egg mix and then in bread crumbs. Fry slices in batches, using the oil, until golden brown, adding more oil as necessary; let rest on paper-towel-lined plates.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a saucepan, heat tomato sauce until simmering.
6. Coat bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with sauce and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then layer fried eggplant, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded mozzarella, dollops of ricotta cheese and sauce; repeat pattern, ending with mozzarella and grated cheese on top. Cover loosely with foil and bake 30 minutes; remove foil and bake 15 minutes more. Serves 6 to 8.