Interview with Viviana: Cooking with My Grandmother

Viviana AaronPlease welcome Viviana, the subject of this week’s reader interview:

Name, Location, Family: Viviana Aaron, originally from Argentina, then USA and now Israel.  Married, mom to two girls, one in college and one at home.
Describe family meals and your mother’s cooking style. Growing up we only had dinner at home, with breakfast and lunch at school. For dinner we always had soup, even in the summer, and some kind of protein with salad or potatoes on the side.  My mom was always working so she did not invest  much time in the kitchen.
How is your cooking style different from your mother’s? My meals are more varied than my mom’s.  I like to experiment in the kitchen.  Sometimes this bothers my family because if I cook something they really like I might not be able to reproduce it a second time.  So they better enjoy it the first time!
How did you learn to cook? I was my grandmother’s helper since I was very little.  I can still cook her recipes by remembering the way she used her hands to knead dough, mix meat for stuffing, cut vegetables in different ways and many other pictures that I keep in my mind.  I also can recall the smells of the foods she cooked and can tell if I am missing some ingredient or it is just right.  When my father comes to visit he always requests that I make his mom’s recipes.  She made lots of traditional sephardi foods: salads, kibbeh, stuffed veggies, lahmajeen (fatay), boyos, sweet desserts.
Do you entertain? What is the largest event you have hosted? I like to entertain although I don’t do it as much anymore.  Our house was the place to go for the holidays.  Our biggest event was one Pesach where we hosted 40 for one seder and 20 for the next.  I try to be very organized and cook everything beforehand.
Describe a daily or weekly menu. Each is on his/her own for breakfast and lunch.  For dinner, Sunday is usually leftovers, Monday and Tuesday dairy/vegetable meal, Wednesday we usually eat meat, Thursday we have a very light dairy dinner, Friday and Saturday our Shabbat menu.
How has your cooking style developed over the years? I try to incorporate healthier and more varied dishes into our menu.  My biggest change is in the amounts of food I cook.  I now try to make just enough instead of always cooking for a crowd.
What is your biggest cooking challenge? With our families’ health history and us getting older, my biggest challenge is to transform some of my recipes to accommodate those needs and still keep the flavor and texture we are familiar with.
Can you recommend a cookbook or website? The Book of Jewish Food” by Claudia Roden and “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking” by Marcy Goldman are two of my favorite books. [CM: I love Goldman.]
What do you enjoy on Cooking Manager? Suggestions for future posts? I like your tips for conservation.  Also, I like all the sourdough and bread baking posts.  New recipes are always welcomed.
What in your refrigerator needs to be used up right now? All my chametz foods!
Please share a kitchen tip or recipe. I always make sure that my kitchen is clean and organized before I start cooking.

You can make the following two salads at the same time:

Roasted Eggplant Salad

  • 2 medium sized eggplants
  • 1 -2 garlic cloves, pressed or very finely minced (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Parsley to garnish
  1. With a knife, slit the eggplants in several places.
  2. Place them on a heavy baking sheet and set them about 6 inches under a heated broiler element. Broil the eggplants, turning them often, for 20 to 30 minutes or until the skin is blistered and charred, and the pulp is soft and juicy.  Cut open the eggplants and let them cool until they can be handled.
  3. With a spoon, remove the pulp from the eggplant and place it in a colander to drain for about 10 minutes.
  4. Place the pulp in a bowl and mash it.
  5. Add remaining ingredients, except parsley, and mix well.
  6. Adjust flavoring if needed.

Note:  I press the garlic with a fork and mix it together with the salt to make a paste.  This mixes the flavors a little better and you don’t lose the garlic juices.

Roasted Pepper Salad

  • 3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. Place peppers on a heavy baking sheet and set them about 6 inches under a heated broiler element.  Broil the peppers, turning them often, for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the skin is blistered and charred.  Remove pan from the oven and let the peppers cool.
  2. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel and remove the seeds.  Cut peppers into ½ inch strips and place in a bowl along with the garlic and salt.
  3. Add enough olive oil to almost cover the peppers.  Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours.
  4. This dish keeps for about a week.
Thank you Viviana! I’ve added some new questions for next week’s reader interview. If you’d like to be interviewed, please contact me via the tab under the header.


  1. I’m also a devotee of Claudia Rhoden. I enjoy just flipping through the Book of Jewish Food and reading her stories. The salads look delish, thanks for sharing.

  2. You are welcome Abbi. I like the book because many of her recipes are things my grandmother would make and they bring back a lot of memories. I love the stories too. I know that she has a new edition out. I wonder if it has some pictures in it.

  3. I’ve eaten Vivi’s dinners since she was a young bride and mother. She is one of the most ambitious cooks I’ve ever known and one of the best. As to organization, she has to be for the number of dishes she puts on the table, the variety and the goodness. She’d check out cookbooks from the library and cook from them before deciding to buy her own or not. Her older daughter and I sat together when she was 4 and she read recipes to me, guessing accurately that the s in sugar was pronounced sh. What a great way to start reading!!

  4. Hi Judy! Thank you for the memories! We miss you at our table.


  1. […] Interview with Viviana: Cooking with My Grandmother at Cooking Manager […]