The Olive and the Orange

I imagine I’d really like Tuscany.  When I lived in California, I fell in love with the areas that resemble that part of Italy.  Ojai, San Diego, Santa Barbara—I left a piece of my heart in each city.  It is there, amidst the bounty of citrus and olive oil, that I realized the true beauty of the relationship between the olive and the orange.  Not only do they both thrive in the same conditions, they have a historic culinary relationship.  They beg be paired in savory and sweet recipes. 

One taste of the house-marinated olives at La Villa in San Diego’s Little Italy, and my mind was blown.  Orange peel.  This simple, flavorful addition added a complex flavor that cut through the brine and awakened my palate.  I have since marinated my own olives at home.  Every batch includes the zest of an orange and is best when the still warm olive oil intensifies the orange flavor.  This is the flavor I love.  This is the flavor of Italy. 

Recently, I created an olive oil cake that feels like the perfect homage to the olive and orange partnership.  Topping it off with an amaretto glaze and toasted almonds just seemed like the right thing to do.  Who doesn’t like a little booze in their icing? Right?   The key to this cake is a really good olive oil.  I am fortunate to live in the same city as The Olive Wagon.  They are the real deal.  One sniff of their blood orange olive oil had me thinking—CAKE!  If you can’t find orange flavored olive oil, you can use a good quality orange emulsion and olive oil. 

 The olive and the orange—if you haven’t paired these two together, you are missing out.  It’s not quite as good as a trip to Italy, but it will do for now.  Arrivederci!

For Cake:

3 large eggs

1 c. Orange Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbs. fresh-squeezed orange juice

1 tbs. orange zest

1 c. sugar

1 ½ c. whole milk

¼ c. amaretto liqueur

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour

½ c. almond meal

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

⅛ tsp. salt

For Glaze:

1 ½ c. powdered sugar

3-4 tbs. amaretto liqueur

¾ c. toasted sliced almonds

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F and coat a Bundt pan with olive oil and a dusting of flour
  • Whisk together eggs and sugar until fully incorporated and light yellow
  • Add milk, olive oil, orange juice, orange zest, and amaretto and mix well
  • In a separate bowl, mix together flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredient mixture, stirring just until incorporated
  • Pour into Bundt pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until a cake tester insert comes out clean
  • Cool cake for 1-2 hours and then turn out onto a serving plate
  • While cake is cooling, prepare glaze by combining powdered sugar and amaretto 
  • Toast sliced almonds in a dry pan over medium heat until slightly golden and fragrant
  • Once cake is completely cool drizzle the glaze over the top and sprinkle with toasted almonds

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Farm to Table

Farm-to-Table.  What does that even mean, you say? Well, it is more than a trend.  It is a way of life–a way of eating–that my family has taken seriously for the last 7 years.  It all started with my first visit to the Onslow County Farmer’s Market near Richlands, NC.  I had been to farmer’s markets before as a child, but this first adult visit sealed the deal.  Those tables filled with beautiful lush greens, crimson red peppers, onions, and plump tomatoes brought me back to my childhood growing up with a huge garden behind our home.  My parents were met with whines and complaints when my presence was requested in the garden.  Despite my protesting, I spent a decent amount of time planting seeds, weeding between the rows, and picking delicious crops such as green beans, squash, potatoes, and strawberries.  Now, I look back fondly on that time.  Funny how we often romanticize our memories, isn’t it?  Because of that experience, I know what a chore it is to grow something–turning the soil, amending the soil, planting, watering, praying for rain, worrying, weeding, harvesting.

I have great respect for people who do this tough work as a means to provide for their family.  I support local farmers because there is an accountability I do not get from selecting my produce at a supermarket.  When I shop at the local farm stand, I get to know the farmers, and they get to know me.  Agriculture on a more corporate level does not provide me with that type of relationship.  I am not anti-supermarket, just pro-choice when it comes to being a consumer.  I vote with my dollars, and my vote will always go to the local farmers for seasonal produce, honey, goat cheese, eggs, and pasture-raised meats.   Likewise, when my family and I dine out at a restaurant, we look for places that support local farms as well.  It isn’t always possible to eat 100% locally, but I like to say “every drop fills the bucket.”  Local farms depend on each dollar I spend with them.  The more I spend, the more they are able to continue providing quality seasonal produce.

I will be adding pages (see the tabs on the top left) with links to my favorite farmer’s markets, vendors, and farm-to-fork restaurants.  Here are a few photos to entice you to visit your local farmer’s market.  Just look at this beautiful abundance!

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Photos taken at the Durham Farmer’s Market, Durham, NC

Keeping it Simple

Thanksgiving–what a perfect day to start a blog about food!  I mean, come on…it IS all about the food.  I am quite traditional when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal.  I make what my mom always made.  You know, the usual: roast turkey, stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you grew up), sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and dinner rolls.  Then there are the pies: pumpkin and pecan…always pecan.

This year, I asked the pro (aka Mom) to make the pies so I could focus on the meal.  It was smart request and lowered my stress level immensely.  Her pecan pie is legendary among family and friends.  It always comes out perfect and it makes the best post-Thanksgiving breakfast ever!

I hope your Thanksgiving was as delicious and memory-filled as mine.  I am thankful for the opportunity to share mine with you.  Until we cook again….

The turkey, massaged with olive oil, sage, thyme, salt, & pepper, ready to go into the oven.

The turkey, massaged with olive oil, sage, thyme, salt, & pepper, ready to go into the oven.

Oh, how I love a crispy skin on my roast poultry!

Oh, how I love a crispy skin on my roast poultry!We opted for mashed sweet potatoes with lots of butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, & nutmeg.  Top with sugared pecans and listen to everyone say, "Wow!"

We opted for mashed sweet potatoes with lots of butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, & nutmeg. Top with sugared pecans and listen to everyone say, “Wow!”
The pies...legendary, delicious, and made with lots of love.

The pies…legendary, delicious, and made with lots of love.