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What's your favorite recipe from Cooking Jewish?

This is my most frequently asked question. It's a little like asking who's my favorite grandchild! I have to say my mother's chicken soup is really the best. Boy, does she laugh when she sees chicken soup recipes in books and magazines from famous cookbook authors calling for two carrots and a stalk of celery. She puts the whole produce department in her soup, a lot of work, but you just can't beat it.

Did you really have such an idyllic childhood?

I guess at the time I thought everyone lived like that - a houseful of cousins, instant playmates, all around, all the time. Of course that meant I also had quite a few mothers for any needed attitude adjustment! When I got fresh, my Aunt Estelle, who sewed with my mother for me and my cousin Joyce, used to threaten to put the bust in the back!

How did you test so many recipes?

I had a lot of help! Some recipes, like the Lung and Liver Kugel, for example, were added for sentimental value only, because you couldn't buy lung now if you wanted to. (Can you believe anyone actually once wanted to?) One cake I had to test four times to get it right. You might be thinking, why didn't you just leave that cake out? Well, with a name like "Tanta Esther Gittel's Husband's Second Wife Lena's Nut Cake," that one was going in!

Isn't using a blender for your latkes a copout?

Not on your life. You go ahead and grate away if you like. Some people tell me they prefer to use a Cuisinart because they like texture. Then they take this lumpy batter and fry it until the latkes are nice and soggy. You want texture? I'll give you texture. Use my SPLAT! method and you'll get crispy, crunchy latkes that will knock your apron off.

But my blender recipe is only one of the latke recipes in Cooking Jewish. You'll also find Malaysian Latkes (p. 282) with ginger, jalapenos and cashews - a latke with pizzazz! And a Giant Stuffed Potato Latke Galette with Wild Mushrooms (page 283), Apple Latkes (you'll find those in the breakfast chapter p. 361 - they're called Trude's German Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes), even Zucchini Miracle Latkes, a great project for the kids. But if you're bound and determined to grate, use the batter from my cousin Carole's awesome Crusty Potato Kugel (p. 279).

Do you really cook like that all the time?

It depends on what you mean by "like that." Remember, over 200 family members contributed these 532 recipes, so there are over 200 ways to approach cooking in this book.

If you mean do I make five-course meals every night, you've got to be kidding!! Since our sons grew up and left home, I have just myself and my husband and two parrots to cook for. My husband is very tolerant of leftovers and easy to feed. When I do prepare something elaborate, I like to double or triple the recipe and freeze. My theory is if you're going to mess up your kitchen and use every pot on the rack, you might as well get more bang for your buck.

Wish I could say I were as diligent about labeling, however. One time my husband called asking what we were having for dinner. I looked at the package I was defrosting and said, "I don't know, but it's beige."

My worst un-labeling nightmare: When my son was in third grade I put in his lunchbox what I thought was a frozen chicken leg, thinking it would defrost by lunchtime and be a nice change for him from a sandwich. When he opened his lunch at noon, guess what it was - raw liver!! (In case you're worried, he's married and a daddy now and seems reasonably well adjusted.)

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