Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary Honeyed Ricotta

I am, admittedly, not much of a baker. Though I adore the occasional cookie baking party- that usually involves a party of one, mainly myself- I tend to stick to cooking and leave dessert up to Ben and Jerry.

But wow, this cake...... I'm pretty happy with it! And so is my husband. You can experiment with a cake like this, and add currants, pine nuts, candied orange peel, or maybe even meyer lemon to this- sky's the limit!

Here goes:

For the Cake:

1 tbs butter to grease cake pan

1 & 1/4 cup flour, plus a smidge for dusting the pan

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

2 eggs

1 tsp almond extract

a few drops vanilla extract

zest of one tangerine- save 1 tbs for the ricotta- plus half it's juice

2 tbs lemon zest

For the Ricotta:

one cup fresh ricotta- not Polly-O, per pieta!- from your local Italian deli or grocery

the other half of the tangerine, and the tbs of zest reserved from earlier

two tbs dark local honey

two sprigs fresh rosemary

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Mix together the sugar and eggs in a large bowl. Add olive oil, almond extract, vanilla extract, lemon and tangerine zests, and half the tangerine juice. Little by little, incorporate the dry ingredients- the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt- in stages so as not to clump the batter.

Pour into your cake pan, pop into the oven for 25-30 minutes.

While the cake is in the oven, take out your ricotta and put it into a bowl. Drizzle in the honey and stir. Chop the rosemary and the tangerine zest into tiny, tiny TINY pieces, and mix into the ricotta along with the juice from the other half of the tangerine.

Once cake is done, let stand for 10 minutes. Dust some powdered sugar on top with a sifter if you'd like- serve with ricotta on the side, and some tangerine slices.

And.....commence falling in love with olive oil cake. Buon appetite!

 

 

 

 

Summer Pesto and Liguria!

I am SO thrilled that my basil plant ( the one that lives on my little city fire escape...) has begun to thrive ! It means that I can finally make my favorite Summer dish.....  trofie al pesto !!!

The dish has only a few items, but they go together beautifully. In a normal trofie al pesto," propria genovese", one would use basil pesto, green beans, potatoes, and the trofie pasta made in that region ( a narrow, twisty, short type of pasta).

To jazz things up a bit, I'm using beautiful purple haricots verts and purple fingerlings from the Union Square farmers market.

To start, boil your water for pasta. And, while you're at it, throw on another pot of water to briefly cook the potatoes and beans. Then onto the pesto- Basil ( a generous few handfuls), 2 or 3 garlic cloves, handful of pignoli nuts (pine nuts), handful of pecorino romano cheese, a little salt and olive oil- process in a food processor until all ingredients liquify together.  { Can you tell I'm not into exact measurements ? }

Next, throw those beans and potatoes into the other pot. The potatoes will need a bit longer to cook than the purple haricots verts, so be mindful of putting the potatoes in first, then the beans later. If you half the fingerlings, they will only need 15-20 minutes to cook. Haricots verts need less, and you can add them at the 15 minute mark. After 20 mins, drain and blanch the veggies. You can transfer them to your serving bowl.

Once your pasta water has boiled, dump in the trofie, and cook til al dente - maybe 11 or 12 minutes. Drain the pasta reserving a little bit of starchy cooking water, then dump into the serving bowl with the purple fingerlings and purple haricots verts, mix in your beautiful basil pesto, and the BEST summer dinner is served.  :)

 

Fall foods

I absolutely love the Fall- it is my favorite season, and not just because the leaves change color. When the air starts to crisp up and the trees take on orange and yellow, I know it's time for the wonderful fall harvest bounty at the Union Square market !

Transient

This week I'm roasting some beautiful carnival squash with sage from my humble windowbox garden. I've cooked a lot with butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash.... but I've never used carnival squash. Here's a recipe I'm going to test out this week - Roasted carnival squash with sage

2 small-medium carnival squash

ten leaves of fresh sage

cinnamon

nutmeg

good quality olive oil

drizzle of agave nectar or dark, amber honey

salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400F

2) Cut the tops of the squash off, and proceed to cut each squash into small pieces, roughly 1 inch squares. Discard the pulp in the middle.

3) In a bowl, toss the squash with Olive oil, a few shakes of ground cinnamon, a few shakes of ground nutmeg ( or, you can grate the nutmeg fresh onto the squash, it's MUCH better), salt and pepper. Chop the sage roughly and mix together.

4) Put the squash in a baking/roasting dish and drizzle the agave nectar over the top. Agave nectar is an alternative to honey or molasses. It is extremely low on the glycemic index, and has barely any calories. I use it whenever I can!

5) Roast until squash is fork tender, roughly 45 minutes to an hour. At this point, you should let the squash cool and then peel off the skin; you don't want to do it earlier since it would be a tremendous hassle. It should come right off.

All done !

Singers have an oral fixation....

When it comes to food! 

Transient

I suppose I can only speak for myself, but I love all things food/wine/beer ; it's yet another way that we comune with each other on the most essential human level. There are few things in life that are more enticing than good food and good company.

To that end, I'll include a favorite recipe, wine, or beer every once in a while; some of them will be recipes I've grown up with (my Sicilian-American mother = Seriously good food) and others that I've learned from other places. I'll also pick some of my favorite, lesser known craft beers - There's a fabulous world of interesting, complex, delicious craft beer, especially right here in the NY metro area.

To kick this thing off.....  My mother's Italian Gravy- aka Tomato sauce the right way ;)

What you need:

2 large (1lb) cans imported San Marzano tomatoes- whole tomatoes : trust me, it makes a difference

2 small cans tomato paste

handful of Basil

2/3 cloves of garlic

Olive oil, salt, peperoncino flakes (crushed red pepper flakes)

First, chop the garlic and toss it into a large pot, cover with three turns of olive oil ( roughly enough to coat the bottom of the pot) and let it start to brown.

Next, take your cans of tomatoes and throw them into the blender: yes, the blender. Honestly, a food mill is great and all but the blender is WAY easier, and who really uses a food mill anymore anyways?? Once you've blended the tomatoes into a puree, pour into the pot with the garlic. After that, add both cans of tomato paste.

Once you've gotten both cans of tomatoes into the pot along with the tomato paste, add water.  Save one of your small paste cans and add four "cans" of water to the pot. When you stir, the consistency should be a bit liquidy, not necessarily thick. At this point, you can add salt - I guess a tablespoon, though when you eyeball this it's hard to get an exact measurement...... I grew up eyeballing most of this, so forgive me if exact measurements are lacking.

After that, add the basil leaves and a couple shakes of crushed red pepper- not too much, but maybe 20 or so flakes.

Then, let it cook for 1 1/2 hrs to 2 hrs. If it starts to thicken up too much, add a little water; no big deal.

And there it is !