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Who's Cooking: Westbury resident Ellen Hurwitch

ELLEN HURWITCH

Director of training and implementation for the software firm RedTie Inc., she lives in Westbury with her fiancé, Mark Deifik.

How did you first become interested in cooking? Through my family. My mother was a gourmet cook. For my 16th birthday, she prepared a full Chinese dinner from scratch for me and all of my friends - wontons, wonton soup, egg rolls, chicken with broccoli, shrimp with lobster sauce and fried rice. Also, as my dad was a weekend fisherman (off Captree), the fish he caught on Saturday my mom would prepare for Sunday dinner. Holiday times were always filled with items made from scratch. . . . my mother shredded potatoes by hand for potato pancakes and potato pudding. During the Depression, my grandmother made date-nut bread in tin cans and sold them from her apartment in Brooklyn.

Why do you enjoy cooking? I find it very soothing. We have a barbecue every year for usually 110 people, and I do all the cooking. I enjoy the preparation that goes into it. This year, I prepared nine different salads.

Are there any special foods in your family's culture that you cook?

At Passover and Jewish holy days, I make the traditional dishes . . . chicken soup, brisket, potato and noodle pudding. At Hanukkah, I make my own potato pancakes from scratch.

What are some of your favorite dishes? Tomato salad, couscous salad, skirt steak in my secret sauce, pumpkin ravioli in my own sage sauce. I don't make the ravioli from scratch, I have to admit.

How do you go about discovering new recipes? With the Internet, it's easy to put in an ingredient and tons of things pop up. I can go into a restaurant, really like the food and try and figure out the recipe. I have dozens of cookbooks, and I'll just research different recipes . . . and try different things.

Where do you like to eat out? Umberto's in New Hyde Park for Italian, The Orient in Bethpage for Chinese, Kotobuki in Roslyn for sushi, and Thomas's Ham & Eggery in Carle Place for breakfast.

What advice do you have for beginning cooks? Don't give up and get good knife skills. Take a beginner's class . . . get the basics. -- REBECCA TOBACK

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