Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake

Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake

Photo credit: Chef Adriel Zahniser

All good things must be shared — especially when it comes to recipes.  Lucky for me, I have a great group of friends who are talented chefs, and we regularly exchange our best recipes.  Such was the case last week, when my good friend Chef Malin Parker told me about Chef Laurie Crueley’s delicious olive oil cake.

I was so excited to make it (and of course, put my own spin on it) that I haphazardly forgot a crucial ingredient: milk.  As the cakes were baking in the oven and I started to clean-up the kitchen, I realized I forgot to add the milk.  Slightly panicked, I began to think of possible outcomes — I knew that without milk, the cakes would be heavy and dense.  My mind raced to think of ways to alleviate the heaviness and slowly but surely, an improvised topping was created.

With Chefs Adriel Zahniser and Malin Parker

My first inclination was to create a warm almond milk mixture and pour it over the hot cakes (similar to what you see in tres leche cake recipes) but in keeping with the Mediterranean inspired olive oil cake, I decided to do a mixture of fresh orange juice, honey and nuts.  The result was simply fantastic.

I am posting an updated version of Chef Laurie’s recipe below.  It combines her cake recipe (yes, with the milk) and my nutty honey based topping.  I also like an addition of coarsely ground almonds to the cake.  The nuts add a rich, buttery taste to the batter and compliments the flavor of olive oil nicely.  For the cake, I recommend using the best olive oil you can find, as this will greatly enhance the outcome.

With Chefs Mary Beth Rodriguez and Laurie Crueley

Since this is the time of year many people enjoy warm drinks such as tea, hot cider, or coffee, this cake will compliment your mugs very nicely.  And while you’re enjoying your tea and cake, feel free to watch this video of Laurie and I in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake
Inspired by Laurie Crueley, Updated by Chris Kohatsu

Yield: 1 cake (9 inch round)

For the cake:

2 large eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange (finely grated)
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup good olive oil (extra virgin is fine)
1/3 cup marsala wine
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup almonds (coarsely ground)

For the topping:

1 cup each walnuts, almonds, pine nuts (chopped)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch cake pan or 8 x 8 square and set aside.
  2. Mix the eggs and sugar until incorporated and foamy, then add the zest, milk, marsala, olive oil and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, while the mixer is running, until all the flour is added and a nice cake batter is formed.  Stir the chopped almonds into the batter.
  4. Transfer batter to prepared cake pan.  Tap pan to release any air bubbles.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes.  Cake is ready when a toothpick or knife comes out clean.  Set the cake aside to cool slightly, and prepare the topping.
  6. Combine the raisins and orange blossom water in a small bowl.  Add a few tablespoons of hot water (just enough to cover) to allow the raisins to plump.
  7. Heat a large saute pan.  Once hot, add all of the nuts and toast, about 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add the honey, orange juice, cinnamon and raisins to the nuts.  Lower the heat and stir until well combined, about 1 minute.
  9. Turn out the cake onto a large serving dish or baking sheet.  Pour the hot nut mixture over the cake and spread into an even layer.
  10. Slice and serve warm cake immediately.  Drizzle with more honey and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.
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Warm Vinaigrettes: Making a Splash

Warm Vinaigrettes: Making a Splash

Raspberry Vinaigrette from Food with My Friends, the cookbook

There’s something so refreshing about a vinaigrette — especially when the weather starts to warm up.  As the days get longer and the temperatures start to rise, our eating habits change too.  Gone are the thick sauces and heavy stocks, as we opt instead for small squirts of citrus, freshly chopped herbs and smokey dry rubs.

I happen to have a fondness for warm vinaigrettes.  There’s nothing wrong with a room temperature vinaigrette on a salad, but when I’m at the grill or doing a quick pan saute, I like to finish with a warm vinaigrette.  In my opinion, a little bit of heat intensifies the flavor of the vinaigrette, which means you can use less and taste more.

A basic vinaigrette is an emulsion of acid and fat.  Most of us know and love olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but if you’re feeling more experimental, use ingredients like freshly squeezed fruits, spicy mustards, creamy butter, chopped herbs, sweet preserves or tangy shallots.  For a warm vinaigrette, I like to start with a hot pan (preferably the one that you cooked your proteins in) and your chosen fat (for me, that’s typically olive oil).  I like to create an infused oil, adding chopped herbs or fruit zest to warm oil so it really takes on the flavor of the featured ingredient.  I take the infused oil off the heat and let it cool.  Then I whisk the warm oil with freshly squeezed fruit juice or vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and immediately brush it onto grilled vegetables or chicken.  Just a little goes a long way — and it really makes a splash on your tastebuds!

Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
1 cup olive oil
2 lemons, zested and juice reserved
Salt and White Pepper to taste

  1. In a warm pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the tarragon and lemon zest and remove from heat.  Allow the ingredients to infuse the oil as well as cool down, about 10 minutes.
  2.  With a reamer or similar juicing tool, add the juice from the lemons.  Use a whisk or jar to shake and create a creamy emulsion.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Use on grilled poultry or vegetables.
Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza: Fresh and Easy

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza: Fresh and Easy

Bad pizza annoys me.  Processed cheese, old tomato paste, bland ingredients — yuck!  Why waste your time and money? Good pizza, on the other hand,  thrills me.  Fresh dough, rich cheese and savory ingredients — it’s the stuff food dreams are made of.

Fresh arugula meets salty prosciutto and rich cheese.

I have a preference for thin crust pizzas, as thin as a cracker, with crispy edges and a delicate middle.  When I make pizza at home, I roll the dough super thin then place it on a sizzling hot pizza pan.  The resulting crispness is just fantastic!

I happen to love a combination of hot and cold ingredients on pizza.  When hot cheese meets crisp cold arugula, smoked salmon or freshly cut pineapple, my mouth sings with intense sensation.

Below is my Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza recipe, one of my favorite casual dining dishes.  It’s light, fresh and filled with flavor.  I recommend using a super hot oven (450 degrees) and allowing your pizza stone or pan to get just as hot.  Do this and you’ll get a wonderfully crisp bottom.  Also, if you use a prepared dough, that’s fine, but I find a good pizza dough comes together easily with the help of a food processor.

Use freshly cracked seasonings at the very end, just seconds before you take your first bite.  This recipe is all about bright, light, fresh flavors — I’m sure you’ll enjoy it down to the last crumb!

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

Pizza Dough
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup gorganzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 lbs. prosciutto, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh arugula
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

The cheese and crust become browned and bubbly

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place one rack in the lowest position in the oven.  Oil pizza stone or pan and insert in oven.

Mix the garlic and olive oil.  Roll out pizza dough into a thin circle, using a well floured surface and rolling pin.  Spread the garlic mixture over the dough.  Top garlic with mozzarella cheese, then dot the pizza with the gorganzola.  Using a pizza peel, carefully place the pizza on hot stone or pan.  Bake until cheese is browned and bubbly, approximately 9-12 minutes.

Remove pizza from oven and top with slices of prosciutto.  Add the arugula and sprinkle generously with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Slice and serve immediately.

Thin slices of prosciutto meets the cheese