Sheila Lukins

If you want to understand the impact Sheila Lukins had on American cooking, start with her breakfast strata. Usually made from little more than dull layers of bread, cheese and eggs, in Lukins' hands the dish became a bold delicacy with prosciutto, arugula and pesto. The fact that her recipes contained ingredients most Americans had never heard of in the 1980s hardly mattered. Lukins, who died Aug. 30 of brain cancer at age 66, knew how to make things taste good.

She taught the rest of us as well. If Julia Child gave American women the information and confidence to master...