For years, she practically lived in the restaurants where she worked, rarely cooking anything for herself. Then her daughter, Ava, was born, and her nurturing instincts set in, inspiring her first cookbook, “Old School Comfort Food,” then a second: “The Home Cook.” Her latest endeavor reflects the way she cooks today, with the skills of a seasoned chef and the love of a parent of a 13-year-old showing signs of following in Mama’s footsteps.
Nostalgia figures big in these pages. A chapter devoted to “Red Sauce Recipes” includes Ninth Avenue Childhood Baked Ziti, a reenactment of the molten-topped favorite from a neighborhood joint. Orange Pound Cake riffs on her mom’s lemon-flavored version, cheffed up just a tad by charring orange slices first so the chewy bits are “pleasingly bitter, hyper-floral, and a little smoky, too.” Even Beet and Brown Rice Burgers, a more contemporary creation, are sandwiched on classic potato buns with homemade Thousand Island Dressing “to give that authentic burger feel.”