A Particularly Lovely Olive Oil Cake

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Get ready for your next weekend getaway with this stunning olive oil cake. Beautiful to look at and healthy to eat. Inspired by Wonder Wall we’re using our Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Capezzana in Tuscany and blood orange juice from Sicily to make a cake that will transform your next weekend getaway into a weekend along the Ionian Riviera.

blood_orange

The Ingredients

The growing of  blood oranges and lemons, most of which are harvested in Sicily earned the hills and valleys around Palermo the name “Conca d’Oro” (golden seashell) in the Middle Ages. The unique characteristics of the Sicilian blood orange stems from a combination of climatic and environmental conditions; warm days, cool nights and currents that descend from the volcanic lands of Mount Etna. According to the locals only in this way does the magic take place: the accumulation of  natural pigments called anthocyanins that give it a sanguine color and reduce oxidative stress.

Olive oil pour from spoon

Like artisan estate-bottled extra virgin olive oil, wellness and health benefits are also some of extraordinary qualities of this blood red orange such as vitamins, antioxidants and important micronutrients that place them at the top of the healthy foods list. The Consortium of the Red Sicilian Orange IGP tells you all you need to know to discover more about the Arancia Rossa di Sicilia.

The Cake

I love upside down cakes and pressing edible flowers and herbs into the pan before baking gives this cake a unique upside down twist. According to the recipe the cake will stay moist and good for several days under a glass cake dome or wrapped inside parchment paper – the perfect cake to make before a weekend getaway.

Measure in a bowl and combine completely:

  • 1 c Capezzana Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp coarse ground salt
  • 3/4 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c blood orange juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp citrus zest and/or chopped kumquat rind
  • 2/3 c local honey

Measure + thoroughly whisk to combine in a larger bowl:

  • 2 c spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

For pan:

  • handful of edible flowers and/or herbs (rosemary, thyme)
  • one 9″ cake round
  • natural oil baking spray

Preheat oven to 360 degrees F.

Prepare pan by spraying oil and then line with a 9″ round circle of parchment.  Spray again. Press your edible flowers and/or herbs into the pan and place in the freezer or fridge. Measure wet and dry ingredients as instructed above.  Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour your wet ingredients.  Fold in your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients so that all is combined.  Do not overmix.
Pour into your prepared baking pan and set on a baking sheet. Bake for about 25-35 mins until a center bounces back and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto your serving plate.
Adopted from a recipe on Wonder Wall by Lori Stern.

 

Signora Clean

spring-cleaning window

Devi pulire la tua casa

According to the cleaning mavens at Proctor and Gamble, Italian women spend 21 hours a week on household chores as opposed to Americans who spend just 4. Italian women supposedly wash their kitchen and bathroom floors at least 4 times a week. American women just once. Unilever even made their cleaning products 50% bigger because Italians clean so frequently.  Consumer polls found that Italian women like their house really clean reporting comments that “Everything has to absolutely shine.”

Only about 30% of Italian households have dishwashers because many Italian women don’t trust machines to get dishes as clean as they can get them by hand. Some of our Italian relatives don’t have dishwashers, believing that hand-washing may be better. Perhaps even calming and therapeutic.

spring cleanItalians still hang their laundry out to dry (electricity can be costly) and often iron certain things they wash, even socks and sheets. They don’t understand our obsession with plug in “air fresheners” and don’t believe that food odors are offensive. They open their windows to let the fresh air in even if they live in the cities.

Italians also spend time sweeping the sidewalks and streets in front of their entry ways and like to use traditional cleaning supplies.  In Italy the Swiffer Wet Mop was such a flop that the company took it off the market. Time-saving and easy are a tentative part of the vocabulary of Italian women when it comes to cleaning their homes. Over the years consumer-product companies have realized that what sells products elsewhere — labor-saving convenience — is not as big a selling point in Italy. Italian women want products that are tough cleaners and need to be convinced that they will be effective.

Washing-machine manufacturers have a hard time persuading the Italians to entrust their clothes to their machines. Italians worry that the machines will ruin the fabric so models with slow spin cycles, as low as 400 spins per minute (compared with 1,200 to 1,600 common in machines in the U.S and elsewhere in Europe) are marketed. The Bosch brand introduced the Maxi 6, a European model with 3 separate cycles for wool, silk and synthetic fabrics. The machine even has a special gentle cycle for jeans because Italians consider them delicate and worry that they will lose their color or shape in a regular cycle.

Even today, as younger women increasingly work outside the home, they still spend nearly as much time as their mothers did on housework. Cleaning agencies are held to a high standard and closely followed to ensure they do a good enough job. 

According to Federica Rossi Gasparrini, chair of Federcasalinghe ( Italian Housewives’ Association)  “No (Italian) woman will forgo a clean house, even if she works. It’s part of love for the family.”

 

It’s Easter – hai fatto una frittata?

 

sausage-and-broccoli-rabe-frittata

Every Easter brunch seems to include omelets with all kinds of creative and imaginative  ingredients. Vegetables, cheese, seasonings, herbs and a variety of protein add on’s from the land to the sea layered in a precision sequence and then deftly folded into a classic third upon third shape. In fact the most difficult part of making a perfect omelet may be the folding. Enter the frittata, the Italian version of the omelet. It doesn’t have to be folded and it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact the Italian expression: “hai fatto una frittata, loosely translates to mean “you’ve made quite a mess”.

Some might describe the Italian frittata as a more casual, laid back version of the French omelet, the quintessential casalinga comfort food thrown together, open-faced made with fresh eggs, cheese, vegetables and kitchen left overs, lightly fried (fritta) in olive oil until the eggs are set and no more egg is escaping. But make no mistake, a well-made Italian frittata is a worthy rival of the French inspired omelet and a poorly-made frittata is a pity; spongy rather than custardy, dry, and flavorless.

So how is a frittata born? According to several expert sources here is what you need to do to make an Italian frittata

  • you need to use full-fat milk
  • proportions matter – the dairy to egg ration should be (8 -12 large eggs to a half-cup of dairy)
  • use a 10-12” pan with a thick bottom and round borders that conducts and retains heat well (non-stick is fine)
  • because a traditional frittata uses left overs, sauté any additions before adding to the frittata to avoid watering down your eggs
  • do not overbeat the eggs; beat only enough to blend the whites and yolks
  • season your eggs with salt, pepper and herbs before adding them to the pan
  • choose your cheese well, for a standard 8-12 egg frittata, stir in about one cup of shredded cheese
  • never over cook your frittata, a good frittata should have the texture of custard, trembling and barely set
  • a silicon spatula is helpful in mixing and managing the frittata

egg e

Springtime Easter Frittata

  • 8- 12 large eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or grana cheese with a little whole milk ricotta for a lighter texture and taste
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic (optional)
  • ½ pounds fresh Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 1 bunch of roasted asparagus or sautéed broccoli rabe

    Whisk eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Mix in cheese; season with salt and pepper and set aside.

    Sauté onion and sausage over medium in olive oil until onion is softened and sausage is brown, 6–8 minutes. Remove sausage and onions from pan. Add 1 tbsp butter to pan drippings melt in pan and sauté garlic until light golden and tender.

    Add vegetables ; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and pour egg mixture into pan. Add the sausage and onion mixture. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until edges of mixture are just set, 5-7 minutes. If it shakes it is not yet set then cook an additional 2-3 minutes but be careful not to over cook or it will be dry.

    If desired, you can top the frittata with additional shredded cheese and place under broiler until top is golden brown for a few minutes longer.

    Cut frittata into wedges and serve warm or room temperature.

Italy and Iceland – Incredibile and Ótrúlegur

It was difficult but I did it. I took a trip somewhere else rather than go back to Italy! After over 20 + years seeing and savoring Italy with our Italian family and friends we decided to take a short trip to Iceland and Paris (more about Paris later where I couldn’t stop making comparisons with Italy). But Iceland was incredible to an extreme. Much like Italy the landscape was extremely beautiful, the food extremely good and the people extremely friendly.

Iceland is much smaller than Italy (by about 3 times) but despite Italy’s larger population and Iceland’s remote location on the rim of the Arctic Circle the people of Iceland and Italy are both welcoming and congenial, eager to introduce you to a variety of memorable travel experiences. Reykjavik as the capital, of course, doesn’t compare to Rome but rather to some of the best hill towns of Tuscany with a center that is filled with unique architecture, cobblestone streets, charming restaurants and shops all walkable but with Icelandic sweaters and snow boots rather than serviceable sandals for frolicking in vineyards. rey

 

 

harborThe old harbor of Reykjavik is stunning. The time of the year we were there you could see snow in the mountains across the harbor creating a perfect scene as we walked past whale watching boats and puffin watching tours.

 

 

beerVisiting glaciers, geysers and volcanoes replaces wine tasting in the vineyards of Chianti but Icelandic beer  can easily stand up to a glass of Brunello when paired with some of the most incredible seafood you will taste from small fishing towns and villages that dot the island’s wild ring road.

Both countries have hot springs (in Italy, terme) and breathtaking waterfalls. Iceland’s black volcanic lava fields, glacial lakes, ice mountains and the aquamarine of the Blue Lagoon are national treasures that in their own way compare to Italy’s peninsular Apennines, spectacular Sudtirol, Tuscany’s Val ‘d Orcia, the Amalfi coast or the glacial lakes of Northern Italy.  And the elusive Northern Lights are as dramatic as a Renaissance painting.

lightsleo

I love Iceland and Italy. Although very different in time and place both have some of the best our planet has to offer.Iceland Pam
 

 

Everyone’s Italian on St. Patrick’s Day.

Everyone’s Italian on St. Patrick’s Day. My Irish friends may disagree but it goes something like this. The food traditions of Italy began with the ancient Etruscans, a pre-Roman civilization that apparently liked to eat and eat well. Archeological remains of clay pots, bronze cooking vessels and cheese graters may have established the Etruscans as the original “foodies”.

etruscans

Enter the Irish. Celtic tribes from central Europe, hearing of the well laid tables of the Etruscans, were attracted to the region of Eturia (now known as Italy). Around 350BC the Celts built a settlement alongside an Etruscan village near Monterenzio (BO) and began to invite themselves over for dinner. So began a Celtic-Italian fusion that inspired me to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day “wearin’ the green”, white and red colors of Il Tricolore, the Italian flag.

Women Flourish in Italy

March 8th is International Women’s Day. Send a special message to the women in your life today.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global initiative that celebrates the social, economic and political achievements of women past, present and future. On this day the world joins hands together to support, raise, inspire and motivate women across all fields of work. In Italy the day is celebrated as Festa della Donna (Festival of the Woman) and fragrant bouquets of bright yellow mimosa are found everywhere as a symbol of support and appreciation for women and all they do.

This time of the year, traveling in Italy, you can see bouquets of mimosa and celebratory banners on every street corner and piazza. The Italians have always valued women and their role in society. Italy is like a great caldron of sensuality and emotion. History and art are sprinkled in for good measure and the outcome allows creativity to flourish and for women it allows their special talents to emerge at home, at work and in society.

If the number of yellow-flowered mimosa I have seen in Italy during March is any indication of the esteem Italy has for its women than I think they are greatly appreciated.

Renaissance Radicchio

radicchio logo

 

Red leaf radicchio is a popular vegetable in the Northern Italian kitchen but because of  its bitter and peppery taste can be under appreciated by most outside of Italy.  So much so that sometimes people tend to overlook it.

But radicchio is bitter in the best of ways and  avoiding it would be a mistake for a variety of reasons including the innumerable health benefits it provides. The reported medicinal properties of radicchio include blood purification, sleep problem treatment, and most importantly, increased antioxidant levels in the body; high in vitamins A, B1 and C.

Thought to be slightly exotic the sharp flavor of radicchio is often paired with balsamic and tempered by honey for a taste that echoes the popularity of radicchio during the Renaissance. The following recipe is adapted from the Consortium of Tuscan Pecorino PDO and an introduction for those interested in bringing the spirit of  Renaissance radicchio into their own kitchen.

salad radicchio

A Renaissance Salad

  • radicchio, spring green mix 
  • aged Pecorino Toscano PDO, diced
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 1 tablespoon of pickled capers
  • 2  hard boiled eggs
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • aged Balsamic vinegar
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Wash the radicchio and soak in ice water, Soaking radicchio in ice water removes some of its bitterness. Wash the spring greens mix. Dry all well in a salad spinner, tear into bite size pieces and put in a large bowl. Season the salad with the chopped anchovy fillets, the well drained capers and the hard-boiled eggs, sliced or crumbled. Add the diced pecorino. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a dressing made up of 3/4 c extra virgin olive oil to 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar , a spoonful of minced shallots, minced garlic, minced fresh herbs or a teaspoon dried herbs, spoonful of honey or brown sugar. Toss and serve with rustic Italian bread.