family lunch

The similarities between my Italian male friends and my American ones are pretty amazing. Some live at home still, they all play video games, they hang out only with each other, only a few have girlfriends, they talk about things like how to poop in space - really, it’s almost like I never left either place sometimes.
Giuseppe, Danilo and Alfredo came over yesterday afternoon for lunch, lugging up our ancient buildings’ steps several kilos of clams, mussels, wine and focaccia. Right away they took over the kitchen; barely fitting, arguing over how many pots and pans were necessary and comparing mothers’ recipes, (here, for example is a glaring cultural difference.)
First out of the kitchen was a piping hot pot of clams and linguine, chock full of the sweet, baby clams that they drove all the way to Trani to get. 
After a long pause on the balcony to smoke an infinite number of Alfredo’s Romanian cigarettes, (they give them out for free at the casinos in Bucharest) they were ready to bring out the second course, musci. Similar to the mussel, musci are slightly more fishy, I would say. And uglier.
Another pause was in order and the boys couldn’t stop commenting, “This feels like Sunday at my grandparents' house!" Meaning, a never ending, eat until you fall asleep on the couch food fest.

Giuseppe came outside with a mussel in hand, held it up to my mouth and asked, “As the woman of the house, you tell us if the mussels are cooked to your liking.” He held it up in its shell for me to grab it with my teeth and it burst open, all garlicky and white wine induced and delicious. I nodded in satisfaction and we made our way to the table for course number three.
The boys by now are like brothers to me and it felt like we were a family as they sat outside discussing the economy and I putted around cleaning up and preparing the dessert. I brought the coffee to the table along with the clementine cake I had made that morning and Giuseppe said, “Mari, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.” He took one of the espresso cups and poured a few drops of coffee in it. To that he added several spoons of sugar and began to mix furiously until it created a mocha-colored cream. He added a little to every cup before I poured the coffee and the result was supreme. It added creaminess and almost a caramel flavored richness to the already fantastic espresso. “Eh?” he gestured as if to say, “Am I right or am I right?”

They devoured the clementine cake and gave me the compliment of the century, “This may be better than my mom’s.” 

Clementine and Olive Oil Cake via Cafe Fernando
(Inspired by “Olive Oil and Sherry Pound Cake” recipe from Alice Medrich’s book “Pure Dessert”)
2 cups all purpose flour
1+1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp clementine zest
3 large eggs
1 cup clementine juice
* Depending on size, 2-3 clementines would be enough for the zest and juice.
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease and flour one 12 x 4 inch loaf pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and clementine zest and rub together to extract the fragrant oil from the zest.
  4. Add olive oil and mix on high speed until completely combined (preferably with the whisk attachment).
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on slow speed.
  7. Add half of the clementine juice and continue mixing.
  8. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the clementine juice and the remaining flour mixture and beat until combined between each addition.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven, wait 10 minutes for it to cool down and then remove from the pan.
Buon appetito! 


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