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‘My Mom’s the Greatest Cook’ (Part 1)

With Mother's Day right around the corner, the “Today” show decided to honor moms who labor in the kitchen year round to please their family and friends. We asked viewers and Web site users to e-mail us nominations for inclusion in our five-part series "My Mom's the Greatest Cook."Hundreds of people wrote in about their moms, stepmoms, and even their friends’ moms. We read about some amazing
/ Source: TODAY

With Mother's Day right around the corner, the “Today” show decided to honor moms who labor in the kitchen year round to please their family and friends. We asked viewers and Web site users to e-mail us nominations for inclusion in our five-part series "My Mom's the Greatest Cook."

Hundreds of people wrote in about their moms, stepmoms, and even their friends’ moms. We read about some amazing women and saw some delicious recipes.

Today we begin our series with Karen Fuhrman and her mom, Laura Fuhrman. Karen wrote that her mother’s cooking was "better than nearly every restaurant." (See Karen’s e-mail below.) So we took our taste buds to California and put Laura's cooking to the test.

It turned out that Karen was hardly exaggerating. Laura’s cooking was indeed superb. You will find some of her recipes below as well as more information about mom and daughter that we found out during our trip.

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HERE IS KAREN’S E-MAIL:

My Mom, Laura, IS the GREATEST cook, no doubt about it.  You would not believe the incredible variety that my Mom puts together for every meal — soups, salads, lots of vegetables, always more than one entree and the desserts! — and everything is ALWAYS homemade!  She makes sure to satisfy everyone's taste buds, requests and dietary requirements. Whether a holiday feast of chicken soup, noodle kugel and her famous brisket, an intimate gourmet meal of her amazing crab cakes, pear and butternut squash soup, prime rib and many fresh fish creations or a backyard  4th of July Barbeque Celebration for 50, an invitation to my Mom's is never rejected.  In fact, friends and family often won't eat for the entire day in anticipation of eating Laura's home cooking and even people who never eat meat have been seen nibbling on my Mom's brisket!  Not only is the food she prepares better than nearly every restaurant, my Mom goes the extra mile by preparing the food with love, pride and an artistic touch of parsley, a sprig of rosemary and a colorful assortment of interesting fruits and vegetables.  Expect heated plates and serving dishes for a hot meal, chilled plates for salads and fruits and always a loaf of hot bread.  

In my family, my Mom is lovingly referred to as our Jewish Martha Stewart! (Before the recent scandal, of course.) Although she has a large collection of cookbooks, our family favorites are those she creates from what she finds in her refrigerator and pantry.

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MORE ABOUT LAURA AND KAREN FUHRMAN AND THE GREAT FOOD THEY SHARE

Having completed college, Karen Fuhrman, 24, is once again living at home — and she says it’s partly so she can have her mother’s cooking all the time!

And it’s not just her family that loves Laura’s food — Karen says her mom keeps extra plastic containers because when people come over for a meal they always want to take home leftovers.

Presentation is key for Laura. Nothing hits the dinner table (even when it's just immediate family) without decorating the plate with parsley or rosemary or a lemon slice. She heats the plates for hot dishes and chills them for cold foods. Karen says sometimes it gets annoying because she'll set the table and her mom will take the plates off because they aren't the proper temperature.

Laura makes everything from scratch and only uses fresh ingredients. They never use canned or frozen vegetables — those items don't even enter the house. When Laura makes dinner, it's never just meat and potatoes on a plate — there's always bread, veggies, salad, sides, dessert.

Laura cooks from recipes as well as concocting her own ideas. She has more than 80 cookbooks from all over the country. Every time she travels somewhere she buys a cookbook from the region so she can try to make that style of food. She enjoys cooking different ethnic foods and also loves going out to restaurants and trying to duplicate the dishes at home.

She is a self-taught cook — she learned from reading cookbooks as well as good old trial-and-error. She also has attended a few cooking classes.

Meanwhile, Karen thinks one day she will be as good of a cook as her mom — "a long time from now."

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Heirloom Tomato Spanish Gazpacho Laura Fuhrman

Serve in chilled glass bowls or short stemmed wine glasses.

Peel the tomatoes, then cut in half; place a sieve over a bowl and squeeze as much juice as possible from tomatoes; coarsely chop tomatoes and set aside; discard seeds; retain liquid from tomatoes.  Add vinegar to the tomato liquid; add the coarsely chopped bread pieces, mixing to moisten bread.  Mash the garlic with back of wooden spoon or with mortar and pestle with salt to form a paste; place in food processor bowl; add the bread mixture and half of the chopped tomatoes.  Process until very smooth; remove to a large bowl.  Process remaining chopped tomatoes, the cucumber, red pepper and half cup water until smooth; with motor running, pour olive oil in a stream through tube until well combined; pour into bowl with tomato bread mixture, mixing to combine; if too thick, add additional water; season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Chill several hours or overnight.

912317960575381336048660492tomatoes 5pound4 or 5 pounds Heirloom tomatoes (about 6 or 7 large tomatoes)sherry vinegar0.25cup1/4 cup sherry vinegarbread0.5pound1/2 pound French bread, roughly torn, with crusts removedgarlic2clove1 or 2 cloves garlic (to taste)salt0.5teaspoon1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)cucumber11 medium hot-house cucumber, peeled, seeded, roughly choppedpepper11 red pepper, roasted, peel removed, choppedwater0.75cup1/2 to 3/4 cup water extra-virgin olive oil0.3333333333333333cup1/3 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oilpepper pepper to taste

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