It's snowing out. That means I'll either be making a stew or a soup for dinner... but that's later.
This is now and I have a jar of NY Buzz honey in my possession , patiently waiting for me to use it in a way that will be worthy of its deliciousness.
Olive oil cake it is!
Here's a really quick and easy version for you with an absolutely dreamy honey syrup to drizzle on top.
FOR THE CAKE
3 cups all purpose flour (and two tablespoons for prepping the pan)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk (any fat content) at room temperature
1/4 cup brandy or orange liquor
1/4 cup orange juice
zest from one lemon
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
2 whole cloves
2 strips of orange or lemon zest
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil the bottom and side of a cake pan, cut out a round of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place in the oiled pan. Oil the parchment paper and dust with two tablespoons of flour.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in one bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine milk, brandy, orange juice and lemon zest.
In a third, large bowl, combine eggs and sugar and beat with a whisk until smooth. Gradually add the olive oil to the egg and sugar mixture, and continue beating with the whisk until well emulsified.
Add liquid ingredients to the egg/sugar/olive oil mixture, combine well and then add the dry ingredients, one third at a time, combining well in between each addition. Don't overbeat, just make sure the ingredients are well combined and the batter is smooth.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for one hour and ten minutes.
While the cake bakes, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, water, orange zest and cloves and bring to a low simmer. Let it simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
When the cake is done, let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Place a large platter or cutting board over the cake pan and invert the cake. Peel away the parchment paper and, using another platter or cutting board (a cookie sheet will do as well) invert the cake again.
Drizzle the syrup onto the cake.
I've been watching and waiting for the temperature to get to where it's soup time and heck, I thought we were almost there. And, then, 75 degrees yesterday, hmmm not so much! A little better today... mid-60s.
Fine! I'll take it.
We'll start with something easy and so delicious. Greek Lentil Soup. Confession time: the thing that makes this soup Greek, is the red wine vinegar finish, everything else is pretty much Lentil Soup but you know what? sometimes that one ingredient is all it takes. So trust me on this, you want to add that vinegar.
Go get your favorite baguette, grab your cutting board and here we go!
2 cups dry lentils
1 large onion (chopped fine)
1 large or two medium sized carrots (chopped fine)
4-5 garlic cloves
5 bay leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (divided)
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 quart water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
First, sort through the lentils (we use brown but any will do) and throw out any foreign matter (translation: pebbles. Where do those come from anyway?). Place in a pot of water (enough to cover the lentils) and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse.
Chop one large yellow onion, one large or two medium carrots and mince about 4-5 cloves of garlic.
Add the 1/2 cup of Oilladi to a heavy bottomed pot and saute the onion and carrots for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so or until all the veggies are soft and the onion is translucent.
Add the water, the lentils and tomato paste and stir well. Bring to a simmer and add the bay leaves, salt and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes. You shouldn't have to add any water but, as always, we advise you check the soup every so often, especially half an hour into the cooking time to make sure it's the consistency you like. We keep the cover on the pot on a slant so it's not quite sealed shut but not uncovered either.
Remover from heat and, if serving the entire batch at once, finish with the 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Otherwise, you can serve and add a teaspoon of EVOO to the individual serving. For each bowl (you'll get about 8 generous bowls out of this recipe) add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar.
Serve with your baguette and a green salad and enjoy!
Many of you who have come to the tastings we've held around town in the past few weeks have asked for this recipe which Jessie Snyder of Faring-Well developed for us last month. Here's the link for you: Dark Chocolate Chunk Olive Oil Scones Jessie is an award-winning blogger with a fresh voice and a sunny, positive outlook. Enjoy!
Don't ask me how I know these things but I would bet money you are not eating enough peas. Here, in the northeast, it's too early to get our hands on fresh peas but I have a recipe for you that makes the most out of the frozen variety, takes about a half an hour to make and dresses up this humble little legume in an unexpected way.
You'll need about 16 ounces of frozen peas, organic if possible. Rinse them gently and let them strain for a few minutes.
The only other ingredients are two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (divided in half), an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce, one medium yellow onion (chopped, a pinch of sea salt and a tablespoon of dried dill weed. (If you have fresh dill, by all means, use that but chop well and double the amount to 2 tablespoons.)
By the way, have you ever used one of these gadgets for chopping onion? It's amazing! So efficient and no tears. I've had mine for years and years, it barely takes up any space, is manual and cleans up super easy.
You just cut an onion into chunks and throw them in:
Cover and give it a few twists (depending on how fine you would like the onion chopped/minced), and there you have it!
So once you have your onion chopped, pour one tablespoon of EVOO into a sauce pan, add the onions and sautee until translucent:
Add the dill, salt and peas and sauté for one more minute. If the peas are still frozen, go another minute with this:
Add the tomato sauce and 8 ounces of water and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
Stir in the remaining tablespoon of EVOO and serve as a side dish for chicken or any meat, or on its own for a light lunch, with feta, Kalamata olives and crusty bread. This dish can be served warmed the next day or just brought to room temperature and can stay in the fridge for a two to three days. Enjoy!
16 ounces frozen peas
8-ounce can of tomato sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of dried dill weed or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped dill
a pinch of salt
8 ounces of cold water
Versatile. That's what we're going with today. You probably won't find this recipe in any book and while I've seen a few versions of it online, I've added my own twist to it and it's with great pleasure that I share it with you.
Comfort food on a cold winter night? Yup. Light side dish (with chicken or meat as the main attraction)? Definitely. My mom used to mash it lightly and place it in a roll for a lunch-time sandwich. (The lunches I brought to school growing up in Brooklyn were a little out of the ordinary, to say the least.) 5 ingredients or less? Yes. And, ta-da! It's vegan. So here goes:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 head of cauliflower cut into six to eight pieces
2 large or 4 small to medium potatoes (Russet is preferable but any variety will do) cut into wedges
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
25 ounces of V-8 or one 8oz can of tomato sauce diluted with 15 ounces of water
salt and pepper to taste
lemon to taste
Start with half the extra virgin olive oil in a large wide-bottomed heavy saucepan. Toss the potatoes in and lightly brown in the EVOO on all sides. Add EVOO as needed, keeping about 1/4 cup for the cauliflower. Remove and set aside.
Add the remaining EVOO to the pot, then add the cauliflower pieces and lightly brown on all sides. It's going to get splattery so use a splatter screen if you have one handy. And keep that overhead fan going.
Return the potatoes to the pot with the cauliflower, add the V-8 (or the diluted tomato sauce), and the allspice and let simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Enough time to check your emails or maybe watch a TED talk. (Stir once or twice and keep an eye on the liquid, it should cover the vegetables about half-way. If needed, add more water or V-8.)
(If you prefer not to have to work around the allspice on your plate, you can wrap the allspice in a small piece of cheesecloth before adding to the pot and remove before serving.)
When the potatoes are done, the dish is done. That's it. Salt and pepper to taste. It will look like the picture above.
Serve with lemon and your favorite bread. Feta is really nice with this as well.
This simple recipe for scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes and feta is one of the first things I learned to cook. The summer I turned 12, my brother was home from university and working the night shift as a waiter for a diner in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn (we lived in Park Slope). My job was to wake him up at 2:00 in the afternoon and get him his breakfast. Making breakfast was way easier than waking him up. :-) This makes a nice addition to brunch and is quite hearty without being too filling.
Ingredients (for 2 generous servings)
This is one time that you should definitely use fresh, ripe tomatoes if possible. In a pinch, packaged chopped tomatoes (I like Pomi) will do, but fresh makes a big difference in the flavor.
To quickly and easily peel the tomatoes, bring water to a boil in a small pot, drop the tomatoes in for about three minutes, remove form water, let cool and ta-da! the peel slips right off.
Add the extra virgin olive oil to a hot skillet. Add chopped tomatoes and cook between 5 and 8 minutes until the tomatoes soften and combine with the oil to make a light sauce.
Add feta and stir for 30 seconds, (you want some of the feta to melt a bit but still have some whole pieces as well). It should look like the following picture.
Add your eggs.
Stir continuously to prevent sticking.
And..... you're done!
Moussaka is a mainstay in a Greek cook's repertoire and each cook brings their own style to this classic dish. Too often, people don't attempt the dish because it can be tedious to prepare, especially having to fry up all the eggplant slices; kind of messy with inconsistent results.
My mom showed me a few important "shortcuts" that have made it so much easier to prepare the dish. First, instead of frying the vegetables, it's way better to roast them in the oven. In addition, to avoid the sometimes soggy consistency that may occur if the eggplant and zucchini (if you are using both) aren't allowed to "sweat" sufficiently, we use plain breadcrumbs, sparingly but strategically, for always perfect results. (See the recipe for details.) And finally, and this a huge one, when preparing the Bechamel, heat the milk before adding to the roux and, ta-da!, no lumps.
(Moussaka actually tastes even better the next day and keeps in the fridge for up to three days.)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) - approximately 4 - 5 tablespoons
2 slender to medium sized eggplants
1 green zucchini
3 lbs ground lamb, beef or turkey (if using turkey, make sure not to use turkey breast only, it is too lean for this recipe)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (approximately 3 inches long)
6 whole allspice
28 oz. canned, chopped tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup grated graviera or Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
ground black pepper to taste
flour for dusting vegetables
1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 quart whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Peel and trim the eggplant, trim and scrub the zucchini and cut all vegetables into slices about a third of an inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 15-30 minutes to drain. Heat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush the parchment paper with extra virgin olive oil.
Rinse the vegetables and pat lightly with towels then dip in flour and place on baking sheets. Drizzle and gently brush with olive oil and place in the top third of your oven. Roasting time varies but, generally, depending on your oven, should take approximately 15 to 20 minutes in total but you may have to flip the veggies about 3/4 of the way through.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add ground lamb or beef (if using turkey, you will want to add some EVOO as it may not be fatty enough to brown properly). Once the meat is browned, drain all the liquid that gathers in the skillet, add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, allspice, tomatoes, wine and tomato paste. Simmer uncovered for 30-35 minutes. Sauce should have very little liquid when done.
Fish out the bay leaves, cinnamon stick and allspice then set aside.
Pour 2 tablespoons of EVOO into a deep casserole dish and brush to cover bottom and sides completely. Arrange eggplant slices first, overlapping slightly, (depending on the size of your dish you will have more than one layer), then scatter the zucchini on top.
Sprinkle the vegetables with 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and then with the 1/2 cup of cheese. It should look something like this:
Gently pour the sauce over the vegetables and smooth with the back of a spoon. (Sorry for the shadow in the next photo... But you get the idea.)
Set the dish aside and prepare the Bechamel. Here's the other shortcut that will make this dish that much easier to prepare. Before you begin the Bechamel, bring the milk to just short of a simmer. Remove from the burner and cover. Then, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan then stir in the flour and cook until the mixture bubbles for 30 seconds or so. Stir constantly so it doesn't stick. Pour the heated milk into the saucepan, all at once and simmer, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in salt, nutmeg, and pepper.
The sauce should be quite thick and have a silky texture.
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Very slowly add about two cups of the sauce to the eggs to gently temper them. Whisk the egg mixture into the sauce and then pour the Bechamel over the meatsauce. Smooth with the back of a spoon, sprinkle with a little ground nutmeg and remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sauce is a golden color. It is best to let the dish sit for 30 minutes before cutting.