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Rachael Ray dishes on cooking, her books


Rachel Ray.

Mike Coppola Enlarge

The queen of the 30-minute meal would like to direct attention to her buns.

Here we have a Sicilian-style tuna burger, with tomatoes and capers on ciabatta. A portobello mushroom burger with spinach pesto. A decadent French-onion-dip beef burger, stacked with potato chips and pickles, that is, in a word, yum-o.

In The Book of Burger (Atria, $24.99), TV food star Rachael Ray's newest addition to her ever-expanding list of cookbooks, almost 200 creative recipes for burgers and sandwiches, plus hot dogs, sloppies, fries, and sides celebrate the mass appeal of all things bunned.

"I've been obsessed with burgers for a long time because I love what burgers say to people," the 43-year-old Ray said. "Everyone is included, you're never intimidated to pick up a burger."

Ray -- whose next book, My Year in Meals, a collaboration with her husband, John Cusimano, who was responsible for the cocktails, comes out in November -- got the most media coverage of any food personality of 2011, an analysis showed, so it's hard to find a question she hasn't already been asked.

We tried anyway.

Q: What is your greatest attribute?

A: A sense of humor. I try not to take myself or anyone else, or certainly my food, too seriously.

Q: What is your greatest fault?

A: Lack of patience. Just in general, I want to do 10 things at once, I can't focus on just one thing. I don't think anyone can do their best work if they're not focused. Though certainly it also helped in my career; an impatient person created 30-minute meals.

Q: What is your greatest possession?

A: I don't care too much about things. I think that the things I care about most in my life are my family, my husband, and my dog.

Q: What's the best lesson you learned from your mother or father?

A: I've learned so much. But my favorite lesson from my mom I think is that in life there really is only one choice: You can laugh, or you can cry. My mom also taught me a work ethic, she showed me by example and lesson after lesson that you should work harder than the next person and never complain about it. Work is a privilege that not everyone has.

Q: What is your one secret to success?

A: Work harder than the next person, don't complain about it. And you have to be a visionary. You can't be all things to all people, so don't try. Figure out who you are and stick to that one thing.

Q: What was your proudest moment?

A: The day we launched our charity (Yum-O! Foundation, which aims to eradicate hunger and childhood obesity) with President Clinton on our daytime show. My mom was there. I think she hair-flipped for the president.

Q: What do you consider your biggest mistake?

A: I'm not a believer in mistakes -- I think everything happens for a reason. Even the bad stuff, I'm still thankful for it. I like mistakes, so it's hard for me to judge that.

Q: So then what was your favorite mistake?

A: That's a good one. Moving out of New York City (where she lived in her 20s, working first at the Macy's candy counter and later as manager and buyer for a gourmet marketplace) to go back to upstate New York. I thought it was a terrible mistake at the time career-wise. But if I had not moved back to the country, who knows what would have happened, because that's where I started doing 30-minute meals.

Q: What would you request as your last meal?

A: I would never want to know that! If I knew it was my last meal, I'm not hungry, I'm crying. ... But if I had to say, spaghetti with lots of anchovies and garlic and oil.

Q: How do you decompress?

A: I cook.

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