Archives for April 2011

Olive Oil & Cocoa Brownies

Olive Oil and Cocoa Brownies

One of my all-time favorite food descriptions comes from Nigella Lawson writing about her Chocolate Guinness Cake, “magnificent in its black dampness”.

Along with her very being, she has a voluptuous way with words – surprise! I could go on quoting Nigella, but I’ll leave that topic for now or things might get sweaty.

I couldn’t help thinking of her words when I made these brownies. Instead, I suppose you could say they’re dark, moist and rich, but black dampness is so much more sensual and tempting, don’t you think?

Olive Oil & Dark Cocoa BrowniesOlive Oil and Cocoa Brownies

Olive oil baked into brownies might seem strange, but trust me, if you take your brownies fudgy these are for you.  And how healthy for us that olive oil and cocoa happen to be loaded with antioxidants, phenols, flavonoids and who knows what else.

I used extra virgin olive oil and extra dark Dutch process cocoa, Hershey’s Special Dark for the brownies pictured here. There’s no detectable olive oil flavor that comes through so if you must use regular olive oil rather than extra virgin that would be okay; however using good quality cocoa is key.

I’ve also made this recipe with natural cocoa (which simply means it’s not treated with an alkalizing agent) and ironically, while they are not as dramatically dark in color, the chocolate flavor is actually deeper.  Green and Black could be my favorite cocoa; I absolutely recommend you try it.

Olive Oil & Cocoa Brownies

Yield: Makes one 8-inch pan of brownies


  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oi
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees for at least 25 minutes.
  2. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish (glass or porcelain) with olive oil. Cut a piece of parchment to fit just the bottom of the dish and oil that too.
  3. Put the eggs in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer and beat on low for a minute. Increase speed to medium high while adding the sugar 1/2 cup at at time. Beat until the eggs are pale, thick and creamy.
  4. Decrease mixer speed and slowly add the oil in a thin stream, as if you were making an emulsion like mayonnaise. Add the vanilla extract.
  5. Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl. Stir into the egg mixture until just incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the cacao nibs over the top, if using.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies emerges with some moist crumbs.
  8. Cool the pan completely on a rack before cutting into serving pieces.

Italian greyhound with rosemary sugar

Gin and Grapefruit with Rosemary

It’s pretty close to a new season, when there’s not much better than lingering with a cocktail at the end of the day, celebrating the return of warm sun and longer days.

It also means that dinner gets cooked and eaten later than usual, but that’s all part of getting into summer mode. I stock up on chilled rosé for summer drinking, but every once in a while I like to start the night (or afternoon. Ahem) off with something a little lighter in alcohol.

A few weeks ago, Molly of Orangette wrote about a pretty salmon-colored drink she liked that included the liqueur Aperol, a brand of Italian bitters very much like Campari.

That drink, a Pamplemousse, is mixed with fresh grapefruit juice and white wine. But it reminded me how refreshing grapefruit juice can be in a cocktail, especially with gin in a warm weather drink, blended into Salty Dogs or Greyhounds.

After a short search around my local liquor stores, I rounded up a bottle of Aperol. As much as I love a simple Campari and soda with lime, Aperol might be even better to my taste. It’s not quite as bitter and has a tiny bit more sweetness and more complex hints of herbal-citrus flavors.

Rosemary Sugar

I made my Italian Greyhound and embellished it a little by rimming the glass with rosemary sugar – easily made in a mini food processor or spice grinder: 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary and 1/4 cup sugar.

Italian Greyhound Cocktail with Rosemary Sugar

I love, love, love this drink! It makes me appreciate gin – a spirit I don’t usually drink- all those herbs, roots and botanicals get along so nicely together and it’s dangerously thirst-quenching.

Italian Greyhound with Rosemary Sugar

Yield: makes one drink


    Rosemary Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 -2 ounces gin (depending on the time of day)
  • 4 ounces freshly squeezed pink or red grapefruit juice
  • Splash Aperol


  1. Combine the rosemary and sugar.
  2. Rub the edge of a glass on a wedge of fresh citrus - grapefruit would be perfect. Put some of the rosemary sugar on a plate and rim the glass.
  3. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Add the gin and juice, and top with a splash or two of Aperol.
  4. Swirl or stir gently - enjoy.

Warm Asian Vegetable Slaw


Do you look at or hear that word and feel a trigger squeezed in the middle of your head, one that connects your olfactory senses to a certain smell? I don’t know how it’s even possible to conjure up an aroma in your mind, but I know what you mean when I mention cabbage and I see you involuntarliy wrinkle up your nose.

Personally, I blame it on my maternal grandmother. We shared a house when I was growing up and believe me, whenever she decided to make stuffed cabbage you knew it right away and then for days and days afterward.

Not that the layers of tender-soft cabbage that had cooked so very long and slowwwwwly with ground meat, spices and tomato sauce wasn’t delicious – oh, yes it was. It was just that the lingering reek of overcooked cabbage that crept up the stairs, under the door and into your room was something you had to put up with in order to get a taste of one of grandma’s culinary masterpieces.

Cabbage deserves a break. Aside from the unfortunate aromatic side effect which most cruciferous vegetables suffer when cooked too much, cabbage has a sweet, gentle nature. It’s there whether cooked or raw, but I prefer cabbage cooked quickly, every-so-slightly warmed; enough to just wilt the sturdy leaves.

This Asian-style slaw bridges a gap between making a salad and cooking a variety of vegetable as a side dish to go with fish or chicken. It’s fresh, healthy and beautifully colorful.

Warm Asian Vegetable Slaw

Serving Size: 4 - 6 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 leek or 1 bunch scallions, white and light green section thinly sliced
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1/2 head savoy cabbage
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced into slivers
  • Handful chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar, honey or sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian chili garlic sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Cook the carrots and leeks with the olive oil in a large skillet, covered, until softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Uncover, turn the heat up to medium-high and add all the vegetables up to the sugar snap peas to the pan.
  2. Toss everything around while it cooks for a few minutes, until the cabbage is just wilted. Stir in the cilantro.
  3. Whisk together the lime juice, sesame oil, agave nectar, chili sauce, ginger and salt until blended. Pour over the vegetables and stir. Serve warm or at room temperature.