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Who's cooking: Dominick Padurano, Bohemia

Dominick Padurano holds his bowl of lentil soup

Dominick Padurano holds his bowl of lentil soup in his Bohemia home. (March 8, 2011) Photo Credit: James Carbone

DOMINICK PADURANO


A retired NYC transit police officer, 63, he lives in Bohemia with his wife, Theresa, a teacher, and has three grown children.

How did you learn how to cook? I didn't learn from anyone. I just have a knack for putting things together. I don't follow recipes or do any measuring. This might seem strange, but it's as though I can taste the ingredients in my mindand know what the food will taste like before the dish is even finished. My mother was a phenomenal Italian cook . . . I guess I inherited a cooking gene from her.

When did you start cooking? When I retired 20 years ago my wife decided to go back to school, and I became the "house husband." So I started dabbling in the kitchen, and now it's become a hobby.

What are some of your good dishes? My beef and chicken soups are a big hit, and so is my chicken Parmigiana and roasted pork chops with breadcrumbs. I mostly cook Italian dishes, but I sometimes stray from that during hunting season, with my venison chili.

Who do you cook for? My wife and myself. I also cook extra for my widowed neighbor, so whenever I cook, she eats. A lot of times I also make smaller-portion meals for the three kids.

What's special about your lentil soup? It's a good example of my food philosophy: There are a lot of hungry people in the world, and so we shouldn't waste our food. I had peppers, carrots, potatoes and bacon in the fridge one day that needed to be used;I thought about what dish I could make that my family would enjoy, and lentils came to mind. Most of the ingredients are ordinary items already in your fridge, and it's a good dish to cook when you don't want them to go to waste.

DOMINICK'S LENTIL SOUP

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-5 slices bacon or pancetta, sliced or diced
1 large bell pepper (green, yellow or red), diced
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
3 celery stalks, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
4-5 medium potatoes, softened in microwave, cubed into small pieces
3 whole bay leaves
1 teaspoon Sazon Goya seasoning
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
Herbes de Provence, to taste
Crushed red pepper, to taste
½ cup red wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 pound dry lentils, rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
For serving: grated pecorino, diced red onion or scallions.


1. In an 8-quart pot, add olive oil and bacon or pancetta. Fry over medium heat for about 4 minutes, or until brown.

2. Add to the pot the peppers, onion, garlic, carrots, celery and cilantro. Saute about 4 minutes.

3. Next add the softened potatoes, bay leaves, Sazon Goya seasoning, cumin, paprika, herbes de Provence and crushed red pepper. Stir and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

4. Add red wine and balsamic vinegar and stir. Then add the rinsed lentils and cook another 2 minutes.

5. Raise the heat, add 12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Stir in tomato sauce, salt and pepper.

6. Lower to medium heat and cook the soup, covered, about 15 minutes, or until lentils are tender but not mushy. Remove bay leaves before serving. Garnish with grated pecorino cheese, diced red onion or scallions, and serve with crusty Italian bread and an arugula salad. Makes 7 (8-ounce) servings.

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