Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Where's Winter? The Olive Oil Cake Recipe - You'll be making it a lot!

Gardening Thoughts:  Who among us - and by "us" I am referring to gardeners, growers, small farmers, urban farmers, and the like - is not more than a bit concerned as we turn the corner into February and our area temperatures continue to act like it is Spring!?  This situation is not just affecting our tri-state area, but is impacting the whole of the Eastern seabord.  Any areas that should have predictably frozen ground by now and doesn't is feeling this impact. I go out to fill the bird feeders and I see buds on my flowering plants, daffs pushing up through the mulch and I cannot stop all of the garlic I planted from throwing off green shoots!  Add to all those things the fact that our ground is definitely not frozen.  The folks at Landreth Seeds are warning us that this weather may lead to widespread Blight.  They suggest using a copper fungicide, which will have to be tilled into the soil, and seedlings will need to be dusted regularly.  Worrisome.  But still I know that by now all of us have the catalogs marked up, have planting diagrams drawn, and are lusting after new "toys".  It's February and regardless of the temperatures, we're dreaming of Spring.

Food News:  Wasn't it heartwarming to see that the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - who is supposed to represent the American people - decided to hide the identity of the chain restaurant (Taco Bell) guilty of a limited outbreak of salmonella?  Reports from both the Center for Disease Controls (CDC) and the FDA refer to "the source" and/or black out the words Taco Bell from written reports.  Huh?  Again, we see the FDA serving as handmaiden to agri-business at the expense of the health of the people.  For those of us who used to think that the lobbying strength of the NRA was potent; think again.  As I have said before, agri-business is running scared.  We as consumers are getting educated, we are asking the right questions. and we are more and more choosing local, seasonal, real food.  Keep yourself up to date; these seemingly little things add up to a lot.

Recipe - Olive Oil Cake:  This recipe is ancient and it is believed to have originated in the area of Verona, using the local olive oil of that region, which many Italians believe is the best olive oil in all of Italy.  It is delicious and versatile - enough so that my little "touch", the limoncello glaze, works very well, but is not necessary; the cake alone is delicious.

Cake Ingredients (Bakes best in a 2 1/4 quart tube pan)
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
The peel of 1 lemon, grated
1/3 cup of dry Marsala Wine
1/3 cup of whole milk
3/4 cup of the best extra virgin olive oil you can get, plus some oil for the baking pan
1 tablespoon baking powder
11/2 cup all purpose flour

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees
Beat the eggs and all of the sugar until the mixture becomes pale and foamy
Add the grated lemon peel, salt, Marsala wine, milk, and the 3/4 cup of the olive oil - mix until all is fully incorporated

Mix the baking powder to the flour and add to the other ingredients; mix thoroughly
Smear the inside of the tube pan with a thin coating of olive oil - best done with your hands!

Pour the batter into the pan; bake in the upper third of a preheated oven for 50 minutes - again, if your oven is at all finicky or unpredictable, I would start checking at around 40 minutes.

Let the cake cook for 10 minutes, loosen it from the tube and sides of the pan with a knife, unmold it and place it on a cooling rack until it comes to room temperature.

NOTE:  if you are going to glaze the cake, do it after you put it on the rack, but do it when the cake is warm.

Limoncello Glaze Ingredients:
The juice of two lemons (use the lemon you grated!)
1/4 cup of Limoncello
Four Tablespoons of sugar
Two pats of butter

NOTE:  Limoncello is an Italian liquer made from lemons and overproof alcohol or vodka.  It is served iced cold and can serve as an appertivo or a digestivo.  There is always a bottle of limoncello right next to the vodka in our freezer - it is delicious and verstatile. And, it is readily available in Pennsylvania State Stores!

In a saucepan, put the lemon juice, the Limoncello, and the sugar.  Stir and dissolve over medium heat; when the mixture is incorporated, raise heat to medium high heat and reduce the mixture by about 1/3 - you just want it to thicken a bit.  When you are happy with the consistency, add the two pats of butter and whisk it - off heat -  until the butter is incorparated.

Brush the glaze all over the warm cake - inside and out - be generous!  The cake will absorb the glaze and that's OK.  Sprinkle with confectioners sugar if you wish.

Limoncello Glazed Olive Oil Cake

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