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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The Real Italian Lasagna

DSCN8879-2This might sound funny but, while I still sometimes need to stop and think how long a hard-boiled egg needs to be boiled for, I could literally make lasagna in my sleep.  Sauce, pasta, sauce, cheese, pasta, sauce, cheese, pasta, sauce, cheese…yep, it’s that simple! Sure, you have to actually make the sauce before you can spread it over the pasta and under the cheese, but I promise, anyone can do it! Like most mouth-watering Italian dishes that seem way too incredibly delicious for any normal being to recreate them, well, it is!

I’ve lived in four different cities and three different countries, and in each one of them I was also known as “The Lasagna Queen”. Great nickname, right? Not!  So since this morning I woke up with an overtaking desire to make lasagna, I guess the time has come for me to pass on my super secret lasagna recipe…and my nickname too!

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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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Pan-roasted Salmon with Sicilian Broccoli and Anchovy-Rosemary Sauce

DSCN8802-2With the holidays in the way, and all the “only-on-Christmas” food we’ve been consuming lately, we forgot just how much we love our salmon.  Yes, we have posted on salmon before, but that was almost a month ago, so I’m pretty sure the blog etiquette will allow it!  Today, after our morning workout and gardening session, we thought we would give our freshly-worked muscles an extra boost with a nice little protein filled dish…with veggies on the side, of course!

I’ve already told you how much we love to cook, but what I haven’t told you is that there is something [or someone] that we love even more.  Say hello to Jamie Oliver.  While I was learning to cook [and while my sister was trying to brainwash me into becoming a foodie -at which she succeeded in every way, shape and form-] the one question that was most often heard flying around the house without a shadow of a doubt was, “how did Jamie do it?” And that wasn’t a hard one to answer either, seeing as we own pretty much every cookbook he has published…ever!  Wife and kids aside, the fact that he is young, attractive, British, oh! and literally obsessed with Italian food has inevitably made us love him even more! We’ve seen him cook on his cooking shows, we’ve watched him take over on MasterChef Australia (of course!!) just by entering the room, and we’ve tried cooking an innumerable amount of his recipes.

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Artichoke Risotto

DSCN8784-3My sister and I are obsessed with a show.  A lot of shows, actually, but one in particular.

MasterChef.

And for some reason we don’t really like MasterChef Italia, or MasterChef UK, or even MasterChef US.  But we just can’t get enough of MasterChef Australia!  As far as the food goes, all the contestants from all the countries manage to come up with some incredible looking (and tasting, I’m sure) dishes.  But be it the good looking lads, or the amazing judges that you can’t help but love, MasterChef Australia is one of those shows that we would choose over anything!

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Shame on me

Ball Park

A few months ago I went to New York City, and you know what i forgot to eat? A hotdog from a hotdog cart!!  My sister almost blew a fuse when she found out [if it were up to her she would go there just to eat!]  So when I got to the cinema today and literally walked into an [ok, not so] authentic NYC hotdog cart…I just couldn’t resist.  If you think walking into a movie theatre with a jumbo popcorn and coke is awesome…try walking in while biting into a perfectly striped hotdog, with complementary ketchup and mustard running down your hand.  Attractive? Not so much.  Satisfying? You wouldn’t believe it! So after a 2 hour something long movie, and a hotdog followed by [can I just have a “taste” of your] nachos and popcorn, I can party-in-my-tummy say…

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Salmon and Radicchio Puff Pastry Parcels

DSCN8432-2-2Back to the Christmas traditions, Italians believe it is custom that on Christmas Eve you must eat a fish based meal. But have you ever wondered why exactly everyone seems to follow it unquestionably? I have. Which is why this year, twenty-three fishy meals later, and in honor of our blog, I decided it was finally time to find out!

The answer actually comes from the Christian tradition, which on Christmas Eve most Italians claim they cherish dearly (you know, St. Peters’ and all). According to the New Testament, Christmas Eve is one of the most sacred days of the year, and the idea behind NOT eating meat is based on the principle of austerity; abstaining from “rich” food, that was commonly associated with feasts! So in order to follow tradition and avoid meat, the cop-out was to substitute it with fish!! Some would say genius!

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God, I love Gnocchi

DSCN8317 copy 2-2-2I love it when my sister makes fresh gnocchi! Mainly because I get to stick my fingers in the soft and squishy potato mixture! If you’re already thinking, “crazy alert!!”, you’ve clearly never felt it before, and let me tell you, you’re missing out!! Remember the 90’s, when everyone had one of those rubber balloons filled with flour, which you could pull and tug and mold into any shape, until they unexpectedly burst in your face, always at very inopportune moments I might add (I was on the school bus…twice!) Despite the embarrassing moments, those little flour explosives felt awesome between your fingers.

Making gnocchi is not for the faint of heart. It takes the four P’s: practice, patience, persistence and potatos!! The most important thing is that once you start, you can never give up. Stay calm and keep adding flour to that mixture until you’re happy with the consistency. The hard part about gnocchi is that at best, they can be light and delicate, but at worst, they will be dense, rubbery and stick-to-your-palate inedible (if they even make it that far!). Using the wrong ratio of potatoes to flour may leave you with lots of broken bits and pieces floating around in the boiling water. Continue reading