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.