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Who's Cooking: Mary Wood, Laurel Hollow

Mary Wood with her husband Wesley shows off

Mary Wood with her husband Wesley shows off her Veal Marsala at her home in Oyster Bay. (March 26, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

A retired school psychologist, Mary Wood lives in Laurel Hollow with her husband, Wesley.


How long have you been cooking? Let's just say many years. I learned to cook from my mom, but also by trial and error. I took a few classes here and there and developed my own style.

What is your style? In general, I'd say its healthy Italian or light Italian. In 2007, I went to Italy with my sister, to Amalfi and Bari, on a cooking vacation. We both brought back a lot of ideas and then modified them so they made sense for us. We're a family of cooks. I have 9 grandchildren, and I like to cook for them. One time, my granddaughter came over with her pasta machine, and we spent the whole day making ravioli.

What do you think about cooking shows? I like books for recipes, but food TV is great if you want to learn techniques. That's where I learned not to overcrowd the pot when browning the veal. That's how I learned to season a dish at different stages during cooking. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt, I'll divide it among the different elements so each one is well-seasoned.

Any tips for cooking healthy but great-tasting food? If your food is well-seasoned, you can use less fat. One thing I like to do is infuse some olive oil with garlic, just let the garlic clove sit in the oil for a few hours and then remove it before cooking. That gives a dish a great but not overpowering garlic flavor, and you don't have to use a lot of oil. I like full-fat cheese because it tastes better, but I'll just use a little.

So you never use butter? I almost never use butter, except when baking tarts in the summer. Fruit tarts are my specialty. The crusts have to have butter. I keep it light on top.


Veal with Marsala and Cremini Mushrooms

Mary serves the veal in small portions over bowls of polenta or couscous.

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 ounces cremini mushrooms wiped clean with a damp paper towel and cut into quarters


Ground black pepper

2 tablespoons flour

1 pound veal stew meat, cut into 1¼-inch cubes, wiped dry with paper towels

Pinch red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic crushed

3/4 cup dry Marsala wine

Pinch nutmeg

1/2 to 3/4 cup hot water

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add mushrooms and cook until caramelized, seasoning with salt and pepper as they cook. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Place flour in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place veal in a large bowl, sprinkle flour over veal, and toss to coat.

4. Heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large enamel-coated cast-iron Dutch oven. Brown veal in batches (don't overcrowd the meat in the pan), turning only when crust forms on underside.

5. Add pepper flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add marsala wine and cook, scraping brown bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Add water to cover meat. Stir in mushrooms.

6. Cover Dutch oven and place in oven until veal is tender, about 1 hour.

Makes 2 to 4 servings


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