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Who's Cooking: Diana Podolnick of Stony Brook

DIANA PODOLNICK

A widow, Diana works as a registered nurse and lives in Stony Brook. Her five children and stepchildren are all grown.

How did you get interested in cooking? My grandmother was a wonderful cook who did everything by eye. My mother wasn't much of a cook, so I used to watch my grandmother and try to mimic her.

What kind of cooking did she do?

Pure European Jewish food. Dishes that came from what she always called the Old Country - simple, peasant food. But she did it so well.

Were there other influences on your cooking? Yes. I lived in Israel for a while, and I learned Middle Eastern cooking there. Everything is done from scratch there, and I became fascinated by herbs and seasonings whose names I barely knew how to pronounce. I really learned how to cook there.

When you think of Passover cooking, what are the dishes that come to mind right away? Gefilte fish and matzo balls. I make my own gefilte fish.

Do you usually make a traditional dinner? Not really. In my family, the main course is almost always duck a l'orange. It beats chicken.

How did this recipe for matzo brie come about? My family all hates Passover cakes. So traditionally, our desserts are fruit kebabs. This was developed because one of my grandsons loves matzo brie. It's fun because you have to make this then and there - you have to serve it right away. The kids come into the kitchen and help. One grandson likes to put the chocolate chips on top - that's his job.

Do you watch the Food Network? It's my favorite thing. I could sit and watch it 24 hours a day. I think I should do a matzo throwdown with Bobby Flay. He comes up with some southwestern thing, no matter what you do. Ancho chili matzo brie?

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