Heavenly Strawberry Cake

DSCN0104Wow! It’s been so long I almost forgot I owned a blog! It’s not always easy to shuffle all your duties and give each one the same amount of attention.  Sadly, as much as I regret to say this, this one often comes last.  But I’m back and hungry so for today we decided to bake something not just amazing, not just delicious, but something so wonderful it will literally knock your socks off (or if we want to stay in theme with the seasons, it will literally knock your bikini’s off!)
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Strawberry Pistachio Tiramisu Cake and How to Decorate it Beautifully

DSCN9899Tiramisu is truly one of the greatest Italian recipes.  And we’ve turned it into something even greater.

I was born in April, and one of the fantastic features of this wonderful month is that besides the flowers, the birds and the bees, another thing that starts popping out left and right are big, red, juicy strawberries.  I love strawberries.  It’s a love I just cannot control.  And my family knows this oh so well.
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Super Moist Banana and Chocolate Muffins

DSCN9639So far, I’ve told you quite a few stories about my aunt and uncle in the countryside.  That was our Italian side of the family.  Let me introduce to you our American (well, Italian/American) relatives.  Ever since I can remember, they’ve lived out by the sea, just south of Rome, in Anzio.  When Marta and I were young (really young), we would often go and spend the day at the beach, eat at our uncle’s restaurant, and play around with our cousins (and their 7 pitbulls!!! – I kid you not.).  But over the years, although the distance is not all that much, life seemed to get in the way of visiting each other.  So for most of our lives, we’ve had our favorite cool American relatives just a tad too far away.

A few weeks ago, they hopped in their car and paid us a visit.  In honor of our American roots (and my mom and her sisters’ crazy love for coffee cake), we decided to bake one.  They stayed for a few days, and every night they were here we ate till we dropped, and then just before going to bed, I baked something for the next morning (in our house, desserts won’t last any longer than that!).
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Soft and Chewy Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

DSCN9413I am not a sweet tooth.  If you sat me down in front of a slice of cake and a plate of raw vegetables, I would almost always reach straight for the veggies.  But I have a dirty little secret.

In honor of St Valentine’s Day, we thought we would make something that not only we love, but so does pretty much everyone else in the world, guaranteed.  One of our followers actually requested these heavenly treats a while back so we thought, even though every day is the right day to make chocolate chip cookies, Valentine’s Day is just perfect.

And then we went and made it even better.  Continue reading

Carnival’s Greatest Treat: Frappe & Castagnole

ImageWe may still be a good few days away, but Carnival is already among us!!  And what a great holiday it is!  All around the world, floods of colorful masks and costumes come out into the streets and parade festively until the day of Lent, traditionally a time of fasting and reflection.   In Italy, we have one of the voted best festivals in the world, in the beautiful city of Venice. Milllions of people come together from all over the globe to take part in these celebrations! And since we’re Italian, you don’t really think we would forget about the food factor, would you? During carnival, Italians will eat, at any time of the day, unlimited quantities of what we in Rome call frappe and castagnole.  Across the peninsula you will find they have different names, but regardless of what anybody calls them, there is just nothing like them.  And the best thing is that you can literally find them everywhere!! Continue reading

Blissful Whole-Wheat Banana Muffins

DSCN8948-3When you start your own website/blog, you have to be prepared to work on A LOT of different aspects of it.  So besides being author, photographer and co-chef of Quattromani, I am now also in charge of SEO (for those of you who don’t know that stands for search engine optimization).  Don’t feel bad, I only found out recently myself! To be honest, when you’re doing something you love, and especially when you see something you created continue to grow, you  really don’t feel like it’s a chore, or something you HAVE to do.  Actually, it kind of works perfectly, ’cause at least now I finally have a valid excuse for being on Facebook all the time!

I spent all of last night working on perfecting our brand new, fabulous facebook fan page, which so many of you so kindly decided to follow (THANK YOU!!), and all the while, I was thinking of the perfect recipe to celebrate the birth of yet another bit of Quattromani.
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Pineapple and Pastry Cream Pie

DSCN8856-2The other day my sister was at work.  Just a typical day at the radio station, nothing out of the ordinary.  A couple of songs, some senseless (albeit entertaining) chit-chat, traffic updates, another song…you get the idea.  And then, suddenly, a familiar voice.  And not just any voice [my sister would say]!  The one and only, the grand, pastry God…Luca Montersino.  If you’ve been to any of the Eatalys around the world, you may (should!!) know who I am talking about, and you might understand why we refer to him as the God of all things sweet! But, alas, I do understand that not everyone is as food-crazed as we are, not everyone chooses to just hang at Eataly instead of the mall, and not everyone falls asleep reading cookbooks instead of novels.

We are not as strange as I make us sound, I swear!

In the years spent testing, trying and adapting recipes, my sister will always tell you that when it comes to cakes, Luca Montersino’s techniques are unbeatable.  Plain and simple.  He is the pastry God, after all.  And since we never really had a nonna that made us cakes and brought them over for Sunday lunch, we had to make up for it with our own creations.
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Quick and Easy Coffee Cake

DSCN8687-2-2The first time I had coffee cake I was about seven years old.  Our parents brought us to the States for the first time ever to meet all our American family.  It was Christmas, so [since it only snows in Rome during freak winters…so never] for the first time in our lives we were going to have a real[ly] white Christmas!! So a 9-hour flight later we landed at JFK International Airport in New York and drove up to Montclair, New Jersey to see the first batch of cousins!  A couple days later we left NJ and headed north to Providence, Rhode Island.  To the eyes of a seven year old who hadn’t seen snow in years, you can imagine what it could have looked [and felt] like!! We walked into my aunt’s house and it just got better! Picture the initial scenes of the first “Home Alone” movie.  Mom, dad, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters-in-law, grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews…the whole nine yards!! Maybe a bit overwhelming when you’ve grown up with a small-ish family, but when the time came for presents…overwhelmed would be a massive understatement!!

Moving on, a few days after Christmas my uncle decided we should go down to Florida…by car! My aunt flat-out refused and jumped on a plane the next day.  We drove for three days.  We stopped in Washington DC, drove through the Carolinas, visited an old friend of my mom’s in Savannah, Georgia and finally reached our destination…the warm and sunny Sanibel Island, Florida.  Overall, the trip was great…albeit a bit crowded.  But the thing that I remember the most is eating what my mom claims, to this day, is “the best coffee cake in America” (something she ate all the time growing up in NY), to the point of feeling physically ill!

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Lavender and Lemon Soufflé

language_of_flowersThe best books often turn out to be the ones that you thought you would never read in the first place.  This summer I kept coming across a book called “The Language of Flowers”.  Everybody seemed to be reading it but I never paid it much attention, despite the countless positive reviews from friends and family.   I was in the middle of reading a science fiction trilogy at the time, which inevitably placed me in a completely different mind zone.   Over the Christmas holidays we visited some friends for a night of food, wine and card games, and the first thing I noticed as I walked through their door was the book.  I gave in to the greater power and picked the book off the shelf before I left.   Needless to say I started it that same night, and the next day I flipped the last page in tears, begging for more.

The Language of Flowers follows the life of Victoria, abandoned at birth, and forced to move from one foster home to the next due to her inability to connect and communicate.   At 18, old enough to seek independence but with no money or job, Victoria finds shelter in a public garden of San Francisco surrounded by the flowers that she has lovingly cared for and grown over the years.   As a child she had been taught the language of flowers, and as a young woman they became her sole form of companionship and mode of communication.   Following a series of fortunate encounters, Victoria’s life makes its way into the life of another tormented character, and the only one who sharesher passion so deeply.   The Language of Flowers is the tale of two lost souls, whose passion for flowers and understanding of a language known by few brings them together in a tear-jerking and deeply emotional story.

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Joy to the Gingerbread Man

DSCN8389_2For those of you who have been following since the very beginning, you may remember me mentioning our Italian American origins. Up until now we’ve been focusing on rather Italian-ized dishes. But now that Christmas is finally here (and American Christmas is a lot more fun and colorful than Italian Christmas), we’re finally bringing out some of the cool stuff! So with Bill Crosby’s “White Christmas” blasting throughout the house, we decided it was the perfect day to make Gingerbread cookies!  Take out your rolling pins, your cookie cutters, and most importantly your hot chocolate…and lets get baking!!!
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