A Healthy Food Blogger Shares Her Kitchen Secrets

Silvana's Kitchen bookbook
The gluten and dairy-free cook shares her secrets with The Nest.

Managing to pull off a homemade meal any night of the week is tough enough, but making it gluten and dairy-free sounds all sorts of impossible. Surprisingly though, cookbook author, editor and former bakery owner Silvana Nardone makes it look foolproof. From sweet cinnamon-swirl pancakes to freshly-made pesto, the Queens-based chef and mom of two proves she knows a thing or two about healthy eating.

How'd you get your start in food?

SN: I guess you could say that I was born into it. My dad's Italian and my mom's Jewish. At breakfast, we talked about lunch. At lunch, we talked about dinner. Dessert was the icing on the cake—it was always there, sometimes just in the form of unadulterated seasonal fruit. Food is how we communicated.

Your usual breakfast:

SN: It's never the same thing two days in a row -- repetition just isn't for me. Yesterday, I had a toasted millet-flax bagel with homemade strawberry-blood orange jam. Today, I blended up my instant coconut yogurt and topped it with homemade oat-free granola, fresh blueberries and a drizzle of local honey.

Guilty pleasure:

SN: Chocolate: the darker, the better. One of my latest obsessions is Eating Evolved's Coconut Butter Cups.

Kitchen utensil you can't live without:

SN: My well-worn rolling pin. Just like cast-iron, I've cured it over the years rolling plenty of pie crusts, so now it's rare that any dough sticks to the rolling pin—a baker's dream.

Kitchen utensil you rarely use:

SN: My can opener. I realize in responding to this questions that I don't buy canned goods anymore.

One food you could eat forever:

SN: Cookies—chocolate chip, oatmeal, cowboy, shortbread. I don't discriminate.

Food you won't eat:

SN: I'll try anything once, but I don't love okra's slimy texture. I think I might be cooking it wrong!

Indulgence you're currently craving:

SN: Octopus salad. I just moved to Astoria, Queens, this summer. I'm puzzled by how chefs get the octopus so meltingly tender. I'm amazed and addicted.

Last meal on Earth:

SN: My mother's fried eggplant lasagna with lots of nutmeg-scented béchamel. I just made it the other night and I have to admit that hers always tastes better. You can replicate technique, but not touch.

Recipe from book you're most eager for readers to make:

SN: My gluten-free, dairy-free Sandwich Loaf Bread. It took me six years of patience, perseverance and every ounce of knowledge earned through the years to nail that recipe. Now, the variations on that master bread recipe are infinite.

Restaurant that impressed you so much you can't stop recommending it:

SN: Bobby Flay's new restaurant, Gato. My advice? Don't worry about reservations. Instead, just sit comfortably at the bar. There are great gluten-free, dairy-free choices on the menu. I can't get his paella out of my mind and it's vegetable-based, yet mind-blowingly flavorful and super crispy!

Recipe in book that best reflects your personality:

SN: The Brownie Bark. It's effortless and has a satisfying, wonderfully rich flavor profile.

Pick one: eat out, order in, cook at home:

SN: Cook at home. Somehow, around the casualness of a simple, but well-thought out meal comes more meaningful conversations.

What's your go-to 20-minute-or-less dinner:

SN: Roasted pork tenderloin smothered in chopped fresh herbs, creamy mashed potatoes and blanched romanesco with olive oil, salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

One ingredient you could do without:

SN: I'm an equal opportunity cook for the most part, but I'd have to say scallions. They can be overly sharp even when used in moderation.

One ingredient you can't stop using:

SN: Right now, pumpkin pie spice. I recognized the other day that it's become my spice crutch.

What advice do you have for people learning to cook for themselves at home?

SN: As cooks, the only pressure is the one we put on ourselves. Family and friends just love a warm, homemade cookie or meal. Our mood and conversations are just as important as the ingredients we put in any recipe. Keep things simple and when in doubt, remember less is more.

Silvana's Kitchen bookbook

Want more? Pick up Silvana's newest cookbook, Silvana's Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen here.

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