22 July 2014

Olives & Oranges

Sara Jenkins owns the very famous Porchetta restaurant in New York City.  If she did a Porchetta cookbook, it would be slim indeed, as Porchetta serves porchetta.  OK there are a few other things, but people go for the porchetta.  Luckily for us, Jenkins compiled a collection of decidedly Mediterranean dishes in Olives & Oranges. 

There was a huge dust up in the cookbook world when Julia Moskin wrote her now infamous, I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter.  Generally, writers are only tangentially mentioned if at all.  Mindy Fox teamed up with Jenkins to write Olives & Oranges, and her name figures prominently on the cover. 

Sara Jenkins grew up smack dab in the middle of Mediterranean food.  Her father was a foreign correspondent and her mother is the food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins and before she was event a teenager, Jenkins had lived in Italy, Spain, France, Lebanon, and Cyprus.

There is an introductory chapter on the pantry and as one might guess, there is olive oil and olives, a variety of citrus, pasta and beans, za'atar and sumac and a nice pecorino.  The pantry items are prominently featured in these recipes.

The olive oil even makes it into a favorite dessert.  An olive oil cake is to the Mediterranean as a pound cake is to the South; they are plain, tasty cakes that can be dressed up or eaten right out of the pan. Everyone knows how to make them, and each recipe varies just a bit.  And you can rest assured that my mother makes olive oil cake better than your mother.  Use a really nice olive oil.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Put oven rack in center position and heat oven to 325°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl on high speed for 5 minutes, or until pale and thick. Add yogurt and zest; beat to combine. With mixer on medium speed, add oil in a quick, steady stream. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture just until blended. Whisk batter by hand to make sure that all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour batter into pan. Bake, rotating pan once, until cake is golden, center springs back to the touch, and edges pull away from pan, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan for a minute or two on rack, then release from pan and let cool completely on rack before slicing. 
So many "Mediterranean" cookbooks feature food from Italy or occasionally Spain, but Jenkins takes the reader on a comprehensive tour of the whole Mediterranean area, pulling the best and spiciest in a single book.

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