One of the perks of my job is getting to meet some of my cooking idols, which is why I was so very excited to interview Lidia Bastianich recently. She was in town to promote two new shows on TLN and her gorgeous new cookbook. I wasn’t the only one excited about meeting Lidia. On Twitter, one friend said that her 5-year-old never misses Lidia’s cooking shows; another confided that Lidia is the one person her husband would leave her for. Hah. Lidia is a television star, restaurant owner, culinary expert and author of nine cookbooks, but in-person she comes across more like your amazing next-door neighbor who is always passing extra tomatoes and zucchini over the fence. Her new book, , Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking (written with her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali), is all about cooking everyday food—the kind we all (wish we) grew up with. In this cookbook, Lidia draws on her her love of good, honest ingredients and takes inspiration from her childhood spent trailing after her grandmother in the family garden and kitchen. Lidia believes in home cooking, and in having family around the table. But, she tells me, not everything has to be an all-day-simmered Sunday Sauce. One of Lidia’s favourite snacks is something you can make right now and will be ready in less time than it takes to read this blog post. Lidia Bastianich’s favourite snack Using a knife or fork, break a good Parmesan cheese into pea-sized pieces. Arrange pieces on a large plate so they are not touching and microwave ( yes, microwave) for 30 to 60 seconds until the cheese chunks are melted into small, sizzling Parmesan-y puddles. Remove from the microwave and let sit for a few minutes until cooled. The cheese will set and crisp up. Peel it off the plate and enjoy. Jennifer Bartoli made a batch for us in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen. Like Lidia, we ate this like popcorn, and I predict you will, too. Lidia covered a lot in our interview. In my next post, I’ll tell you what Lidia Bastianich keeps in her pantry, and her advice for getting kids involved in the kitchen. You can catch Lidia's shows, Lidia's Italy, Lidia's Family Table and her newest show, Lidia's Italy in America on TLN.