Thursday, March 8

What's in Your Basement?

Peter John is my favorite cousin. He has a knack for saying, in a hilarious manner, what everyone else is thinking. At a family dinner he once joked that in the event of World War III, after the nuclear fall out, he would somehow manage to make it to my dad’s house, because it would be the only place left in Rhode Island that wouldn't run out of food.

It's true. My dad has a large basement whose food contents could rival that of any Super Stop n’ Shop or Costco. I am not sure if this is an Italian thing, or a 1950's bomb shelter thing, or because he grew up in a large family where money was not plentiful but manual labor was. I could write several posts about his canning tomatoes, pickling peppers, and stuffing sausages his whole life. I suspect there is a part of him hard-wired to always have ample amounts of food stored. Trust me, he does.

Although I haven’t been in my parents’ basement since Christmas, I'm certain there are, right now, at least 25 boxes of Barilla pasta, 30 cans of San Marzano tomatoes, 5 cases of bottled water, a dozen boxes of cereal, a half a wheel of Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese, 10 gallons of olive oil, and 20 cans of cannelini beans. Whenever we ask him what he’s going to do with all that food, he invariably responds, “It’s food. It’ll never go to waste. Somebody will eat it.” Somebody always does -- primarily because he gives most of it away.

My dad is a truly generous person, especially when it comes to food. He gives away turkeys at holidays, shares countless bottles of his best wine with friends and family, and delivers crates full of fresh produce, meats, and cheeses to his children. He gets pleasure out of sharing food with others.

Since we’ve moved away, he has sent us scores of care packages. Invariably, there will be a bottle of olive oil because he knows that I love it. From light and fruity to bold and grassy, there isn’t one that I won’t try. I don't remember the last time I actually had to buy a bottle in the store; the shipments always seem to arrive just in time. Which is why I was stunned to realize that I have never made an olive oil cake. I mean really, I should be ashamed to call myself Italian.

Well, this past Sunday I made my first olive oil cake. The recipe is adapted from Sarah Perry’s Holiday Baking: New and Traditional Recipes for Wintertime Holidays. To make it savory, I added fresh lemon, rosemary, black pepper, and Dad's Reggiano-Parmigiano.

It was lovely paired with an arugula and ricotta frittata as well as with a goat cheese, olive, and sun-dried tomato spread. I must say, I can't wait to make it again as it was ultra moist, dense, and delicious. The only missing part was sharing a piece with Dad.

Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and LemonPrint recipe only here.

Basic cake recipe:
1 ¼ c all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 c sugar
½ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup milk

Additions:2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
The zest of 2 small lemons
The juice of 1 small lemon
1 cup grated Reggiano-Parmigiano
Several cranks of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 10-inch loaf pan or 9-inch round pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well blended, about 1 minute. Whisk in the olive oil and milk.

Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until thoroughly blended. Gently mix in the rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, black pepper, and Reggiano-Parmigiano.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 20 minutes before removing the cake.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

This tree is outside our bedroom, and every morning by the time we awake, the fragrance perfumes the entire room. This picture was taken from my window early one morning. I used the lemons in the cake.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What a delicious looking cake! Lemons and parm and olive oil sounds like a great combination. I'm glad to know of your father's stash of Italian ingredients; now, what's his address????!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

This cake looks fabulous! The herb touch is very interesting and I'm sure it mingles well with the fragrant aromas of lemon.
Your father seems to be a very generous person. The story about his basement made me dream! It's a bit like Ali Baba's cave. The only difference resides in the fact that at your parents', it is chock-a-block full with yummy food...

Stella said...

My My, doesn't this look gorgeous & yummilicious? Oh Susan, please share a piece of your lovely cake with me!!
p.s: I wish I had a large basement just filled with food like you too!:)

MeloMeals said...

What a lovely tribute to your father. He sounds like a lovely man.
I am intrigued by this cake.. I may try to tweak the recipe (to leave out the egg/dairy).. do you think it would still be good without the parmesan? Rosemary and lemon are so beautiful together.

Alanna Kellogg said...

What? Care packages don't deliver east-ward? Oh well, it's the thought that counts! But if I'm your Dad, I'm holding out for the real thing as soon as you're in the same time zone for more than an hour.

Lis said...

Susan - how funny, my father was the same way. Only it was the back room (it was dark and cool like a cave) of our restaurant. He'd store crates of food, cases of wine, boxes of condiments, shelves full of spices and canned goods.. the whole 9 yards - and none of it was for sale at the restaurant, it was his personal stash for friends and family. =)

He also was the person who introduced me to olive oil cake and olive oil bread - both delicious! I REALLY LOVE the ingredients you decided to put in yours and I look forward to trying it myself =)

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Susan - Wow! I've never made a savory cake, nor even thought about it. But between the fruity olive oil, rosemary and lemons, I'm heading for the grocery store tonight! Can't wait to try it. You've got a sweet cake convert!

wheresmymind said...

I thought all the people from RI were gonna go to the Hostess factory in Natick, MA when the world ended? God I do love Family Guy!

Anonymous said...

That cake looks so good, and I know I would love it, but the guys in my house would probably find out what was in it and screw up their noses at it. Olive oil? nyet....that would just mean more for me.

Love the story about your Dad too. What a great guy!

Linda said...

this really looks like a damn delicious treat. as i'm sure i have expressed to you in the past... I LOVE ROSEMARY, most especially in breads. i can't wait to give this a go.

i love people like your cousin -- they are the spice of life!

Asha said...

Hey! Why blame him!!It's better to be safe with belly full of food than sorry and hungry!!;P

Cake looks great.I made Mediterranean Cake for her,usually wouldn't think of baking a savory cake.Thanks for this recipe.

Gattina Cheung said...

I haven't made olive oil cake for yonks... love to see yours, it's stunning!!! Your dad sounds like someone in my family... my husband :) Some folks saw us put grocery into our car, they asked if we had 10 kids!

Brilynn said...

Great story!
I've never made an olive oil cake, but that looks pretty good to me!

Anonymous said...

The only thing more exciting than seeing an awesomely creative dish with a really cool story is realizing that I have all the ingredients on hand :)

Olive oil, cake, rosemary, good cheese, and lemon - who needs anything else?

cookiecrumb said...

I collect parents. Can I borrow your dad? Or we could share him.

Hooray on the backyard lemons! And your cake looks, as we say here on the Internets, "Good Enough to Try."

Mikaela said...

What a sweet ode to dad :) Your photos are beautiful!

Lisa Johnson said...

This cake looks wonderful and oh so sunny yellow!

My parents basement is the same! There have been many times when my mom lets me go "shopping" there and I leave with bags of food, but it doesn't even make a dent!

Patricia Scarpin said...


What a beautiful post! The way you "speak" about your dad is so moving, sensitive, full of good emotions. Magnificent reading.

Your olive oil cake looks fantastic - and all those ingredients you added are delicious!
The texture is great, I can tell by the photo.

Anonymous said...

Susan, your cake looks wonderful. I love the mixture of rosemary and lemon, and my cold bones ache with jealousy for the opportunity to have a lemon tree outside my window. Any thoughts on how you might adapt this, or what you would serve it with if you were looking for something sweet?

Anonymous said...

This sounds wonderful! Complex and not overly sweet. Sounds like it might also play nicely with a simple icing I make for my lemon flaxseed cake: thoroughly mix 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with a tablespoon of lemon juice and drizzle it over the completely cooled cake, letting it run down the sides and pool in the serving plate. A little extra lemony zing--and the look of it keeps with the rustic quality of your lovely cake.

Anonymous said...

Susan, the cake looks deeelicious (as everything you have made looks)! I have to vouch for the comments about your Dad (and the same goes for your Mom) - they are both extremely generous. Over the past 30 years I have been the proud and appreciative recipient of countless baked goods, wine, bread, bread dough - the list goes on and on. What you may not know is your Dad's fetish carries over to the office - we have enough peanut butter and crackers to feed a small army. We'll never go hungry if we get snowed in. I am enjoying your blog immensely as well as the delicious recipes (it's the 1st thing I check in the a.m.) Keep up the good work.


Anh said...

Susan, this is such a beautiful cake. I would love to have some! :)

And your dads food storage sounds a lot like my grandmother's. Always full of goodies!

Mishmash ! said...

Susam, I am stil looking at those pics..I just loved all that lemonish yellow in there...Absolutely beautiful cake and a great entry for MM. I liked ur dad :)


Susan from Food Blogga said...

Lydia-He lives in South County. You'll recognize his house because it's the one with all the shopping carts out front. ;)

Rosa-It really is wonderfully fragrant!

Valentina-Come on over! I'd love to share a piece with you. :)

Melody-Thanks, he really is. I too tweak many recipes with egg beaters and lactaid or soy milk. I also think it would be perfectly fine without the cheese. It's really the rosemary and lemon pairing that's most flavorful.

Alanna-Oh, yes, care packages travel east-ward (usually with CA goodies). But that's still not the same as sharing a piece with him. That's the part I really miss.

Lis-Oh, your father sounds so dear. I love that he had a special reserve just for family. That's the way it should be. :)

T.W.-I'll be honest. I'm not a big time cake-eater. But after one taste of this savory cake, I'm hooked. Jeff has already asked me when I'm making the next one! :)

Kate-Thanks! Well, more for you isn't a bad thing. ;)

Linda-As a rosemary-lover, you really must try this! The flavor is enhanced by the fresh lemon.

Jeff-Hostess?!? Now, that's a blast from the past! I haven't thought of that place in years.

Asha-You're right! No arguments here! ;) And I'm so happy Meeta choose this topic!

Gattina-I love it! How funny! When Jeff and I go to the farmers' market, they always ask how many kids we have too! I inherited it from my dad. ;)

Brilynn-Glad you liked the story!

Shawnda-Oh, I'm so glad to hear it! You won't be disappointed. :)

Cookiecrumb-Well, I might open to loaning him, but only if you promise to be really, really nice. See, I learned since the rosemary. I'll be a true Californian yet. ;)

Mikaela-Oh, thank you so much!

Anali-That is too funny! Last time we were home, my brother and sister-in-law joked about "shopping" in my dad's basement. Sounds like your mom is super generous too! :)

Patricia-Thank you for the lovely words. I always appreciate your comments. And, if you say the cake's texture is good, then I'm really flattered. You know how I feel about your baking skills!

Rob-Thanks! For something sweet, you could add some sweet dessert wine and orange zest instead of the herbs and cheese. You could also serve it with a sweetened creme fraiche or whipped ricotta and fresh berries. Or try Terry's lemon icing above.

Terry-Thanks so much for that suggestion; I will definitely try it. I can visualize the icing'll be perfect.

Jo-Ann-Thank you for that lovely comment. You just warmed me heart. Really. I laughed out loud about the peanut butter and crackers. It's so true! It means so much to me that I'm the first thing you check in the morning! There wouldn't be a blog if it weren't for loyal readers like you. Take care,and give my best to Lou.

Scribbit said...

I've never had savory cakes like this. I can only think of warm cornbread with jalepenos and cheddar as a likeness of the experience. But I love olives and rosemary--my little rosemary tree in my kitchen has hung on through another winter and could use some snipping.

Chris said...

Susan - What a fabulous post! I haven't thought of Stop n' Shop in years! Just reading the words - I can hear the Boston Accents ringing in my ears.....
This cake looks wonderful. The pictures are spot on! Thanks!

Toni said...

Sounds like your dad and my late husband would have had a lot in common. We usually had enough food around to feed the Turkish army, but they never showed up.

This cake looks gorgeous! From the first photo, I thought "I want that!"

isabilla said...

cara Susan, my father is like yours, the same same, his big trouble is about food, he give us a lot of food, and also wine, olive oil from Abruzzo (family production- oil mill), he is very generous and has a big-hearted like your Dad... ..and my mother-in-law has also the same generosity, she bought us a lot of fresh vegetagle and fruits, cheese, sweets, olive oil (we have a lot of :) !) so, we are lucky :)
..and this cake has the smell of Italy! ciao ciao

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Anh-Don't even get me started about my grandmother! She couldn't give away enough food to all of us. I'm so glad you have the same type of family.

Shn-It really is a cheerful yellow color from the lemon zest. Thanks! I really like him too. :)

Michelle-This was my first savory cake too, but it won't be my last! I hope you try it.

Chris-Now, that you've said it, I can hear the accent too!

Toni-I'd love to give you a piece!

Isabilla-I can almost guarantee you that right now my father is calling around to find olive oil from Abruzzo. Your family sounds exactly like mine. Mille grazie! Ciao!

Monika Korngut said...

Great post. I have never tried olive cake but this one with all those herbs must have been delicious.

You sound like you have a wonderful family. When I was in Italy I was in love with all the people there, they were all so generous and helpful. I love Italy.

tigerfish said...

You changed your blog design with
a kumquat banner! Cool! Welcome of spring, ya! Nice.
No kidding, your dad's basement can rival Costco? Would be fortunate to have you as my neighbour :D

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan - what a lovely post - I enjoyed reading about your father. Your cake sounds (and looks) absolutely delicious!

Jade said...

Adding rosemary sounds really good. I only recently tried olive oil cake, and I loved it! I tried to make one from an Italian cookbook, but the flavor of the baking powder was too strong. I will have to compare your recipe with the one in the book, but from the looks of it yours seems better.

I loved your story of your father's basement. I have to admit mine is similar, though not even close to that degree. I stock maybe 1/5 of what your father does. I always know if I'm going to run out of something well in advance.

Linda said...

love the new look header and nice photo. as much as i liked your previous one, i would have never know how beautiful you are!

Passionate Eater said...

What an amazing idea! And you are just like your parents! Thanks for "generously" sharing this recipe, I can't want to try it!

Melting Wok said...

Susan, I love the header, header per season, that would be refreshing ya ? I love the picture the most, ah..finally I see your face, you looked so sweeeett 16 !!! btw, just came back from Costco with jugs of olive oil hehe, hm..should I bake a not..err..

Pip said...

This cake looks georgious, I like so much the combination of rosemary and lemon with olive oil, I will try this for sure! By the way, the obsession of olive oil is typical Italian, especially with people from central and southern Italy. On the contrary, in the north butter is mostly prefered in many preparations, not only in cakes. I'm one of those olive oil supporters, anyway! ;) The one I prefer the most is from Umbria (where I have some relatives!), full-bodied but very delicate at the same time. You should tell your dad to try it! ;D

Pip said...

Just forgetting... nice header and lovely picture of yours! :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Monika-It sounds like you met many lovely people in Italy. That's wonderful.

Tigerfish-Yeah, a little bit of spring. Trust me, we had happy neighbors! ;)

Gilly-Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Jade-I looked at 2-3 recipes and went with this one because I thought it would be moist. I was happy with it, so I would recommend it. I don't even have a basement, which is a good thing!

Linda-You are too kind.

Passionate eater-Like my parents? Aw, now that's about the nicest thing you could say to me. :)

Shirley-Actually, maybe saying I look sweet 16 is the nicest thing you could say to me. Yeah, changing with the seasons is nice, especially when the weather doesn't change that much!

Pip-Oh, thanks for the information about Umbria. I'm sure if my dad is reading my comments, he's already begun searching for it on the internet! Thanks! Glad you like them.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like such a cool basement. We don't have one (we live in an apartment) but if we ever do have one I'm going to stock it with pastas and oils and wines and dried fruits and - oh! Can you see how excited I get at the mere thought of that much storage space?

Your cake looks deliciously lovely. :)

Ari (Baking and Books)

sher said...

Uh, Susan....can you send me...the address of your father's house....maybe I'll just pop over there and help myself to his food stuffs. :):) Boy, he has nice stuff stashed away!

The cake is gorgeous!!!

Kajal@aapplemint said...

Are'nt dads the cutest !As a kid i used to get annoyed at him and tell him dad why u always in the kitchen n talkin about food...i never understood his passion.Now that i'm married and away and in my own kitchen i miss him and all the lovely things he used to make.And i tell u- the parcels always arrive in time...special homemade pickles and freshly ground spices.
Would love to try your savoury cake.It looks delicious.

bee said...

ever since i saw this cake on giada's TV show (or one like it), it's been at the back of my mind. your blog and recipes are fabulous.

Anonymous said...

Food Blogga-
I love savory cakes and I must say, yours is the most beautiful I have seen. It is so bright and cheerful. I am sure it tasted wonderful. I will definitely make yours next. So glad I found you on delicious.

Rasa Malaysia said...

Can I visit your dad's basement? :P

Connie said...

savory cakesw, what a great idea. and paired with the tomato spread sounds great

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Ari-I know what you mean. We live in a small apartment with NO storage space. Having food storage space is a dream worth getting excited over!

Sherry-He sure does! Thanks so much!

Kate-Oh, I love to hear that your dad sends you care packages too! It's such a sweet expression of love.

Bee-Thanks for visiting and for the kind words!

Elizabeth-I'm glad you found me. I appreciate your compliments very much.

Rasa Malaysia-Well, only if you promise to leave enough olive oil for my next care package. ;)

O Mama Mia said...

{{drooling on screen}} As always, you capture the beauty of your history with each recipe. I love that! And I love this recipe!
{{sniff sniff}} I miss the citrus groves of California.

Lucy said...

I was a little unsure about the combination of sugar and parmesan. My stepson just polished off most of the cake - and I stand absolutley corrected! What a lovely combination of flavours Susan. And lovely to see your photo also!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, how lovely it is for you to wake up every morning to the glorious scent of your lemon tree flowers. I can only dream of it.

This cake, not only looks delicious, sounds interestingly very good too. The mixture of flavours blending together... i'd like to try this one day. :)


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful father you have! :) You are truly lucky...and on top of that, a lemon tree roght outside your window! That cakes sounds delicious, especially as you described what you had it with...what a fantastic meal! :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Connie-It really was lovely with the sun-dried tomato spread.

Jess-I love your kind words! Thank you so much.

Lucy-You really made it? Oh, how wonderful. I'm so glad your stepson liked it. You know, I had three different recipes, and only one called for no sugar, so that helped me make my decision. I plan on trying it in the future though.

Mae-Until we moved here, I never knew about the glorious fragrance of lemon and oranges blossoms.

Joey-As soon as I saw the tree, I was ready to sign the contract!

shuna fish lydon said...

I think I'm comment #1,004 but here I am. heh.

this cake looks intriguing and delicious! The Meyer Lemon tree in front of my house is practically toppling over... so time to give this one a try. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Sue: What a beautiful, warm story. It brought back memories. Your paternal grandfather had family in Prata Sanita Italy and they exchanged packages;they would send homemade cheese and olive oil. He also had a cellar stocked with food as this was the great depression years. We are all very proud of your writing abilities and quality of pictures. Love Dad

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Susan, this is incredible. I loved the post and the cake looks fantastic.
Thank you!

Pip said...

Only a question: "c" stands for cup? In Italy we use grams so I'm not sure about the quantities (I want to try this recipe!)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Shuna-Thanks for stopping by! You trump me with a Meyer lemon tree!

Dad-You said it perfectly. Love, Sue.

Meeta-Thanks! I'm so pleased you enjoyed it!

Pip-Yes, C stands for cup. I think you can find programs on the internet that will do the conversions for you. I hope you like it!

Pip said...

Thanks. I know about these programs, I use one for my blog, too! I just wanted to be 100% sure about the "c"! ;)

Anonymous said...

This cake sounds wonderful. I printed it and I plan on making it for your brother. He loves anything that has a hint of lemon. Your blog is great. I visit frequently and print recipes that I know your brother will love. I feel like I am getting to know you and jeff through your wonderful stories. I especially love the stories about your dad. He is truly a special man...Your Mom is great too!!!

Jeanne said...

Oh, I love this cake! Not only totally gorgeous but sounds mouth-watering too. I've nebver made a savoury cake, but maybe it's time to start. Love the story of your dad and his basement pantry too - me best friend's mom was Croatian and did exactly the same thing...

Anonymous said...

oooo..yeah! I've tried this recipe before and I must say..yumm,yumm,yumm,yumm,yumm! :-)
the texture of this cake is amazing and the tangy-ness coming from the lemon really compliments the olive oil in a subtle way. I did left out the rosemary though cause my fiance couldn't stand the smell :P

nevertheless it's a great way to try something new and is a definite keeper for cake lovers! and on top of that, it's HEALTHY! :-) :-) (trying to make myself feel better..hihi!)

Farmgirl Susan said...

This cake looks absolutely wonderful. I've never made anything like it. Can't wait to try it. Loved reading about your dad's basement, too. The Shack doesn't have an actual basement, but I can totally relate to the food hoarding--though I'm just a rank amateur compared to him! ; )

chrisnallynkids said...

wow! A lemon tree just outside your bedroom window! How cool is that?! What a great dad you have!

cait said...

I thought my RI family was the only one with a whole grocery store in their basement! This was delicious, thouroughly enjoyed finding and making this recipe

Susan from Food Blogga said...

cait-Nope. We're more alike than you think. ;) Thanks for letting me know. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful cake recipe, ive noted it down will be trying it out soon, infact there is recipe i came across on the cake recipe has oil, green cardamom as ingredients, looks like a good recipe!

Aqsaa said...

I just made this cake, well without the additions was very good! really soft!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

aqsaa-Thanks for letting me know. I'm so happy you enjoyed it!