Dario’s Olive Oil Cake

February 18, 2014

Dario's Olive Oil Cake (from Nancy Silverton)

This recipe is, more or less, the way it was printed in the Los Angeles Times.  It makes 2 cakes, and Nancy's still refining the recipe. I thought it was delicious: although it was a bit crumbly the first day, it was better the second, and by the third day it was so absolutely irresistible I could have eaten the whole cake by myself. 

1 cup golden raisins 

3/4 cup rum

3 whole oranges

3 extra-large eggs

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon baking soda

 1 scant tablespoon, baking powder

3 1/2 cups cake flour

2/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish

1. Bring the raisins and rum to a simmer in a small saucepan, then immediately remove from the heat. Let stand at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.

2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 2 (10-inch) angel food cake pans by generously spraying with cooking spray and dusting with flour.

3. Halve the whole oranges through the stem and slice into one-fourth-inch thick sections. Remove any seeds and chop into fairly fine pieces.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the eggs, 1¼ cups of the sugar and the leavening over medium high speed until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes.

5. With mixer on medium speed, slowly add olive oil in a slow, steady stream down the side of the bowl until emulsified. Turn the mixer back down to low and add the flour and soaked raisins (with any remaining liquid) alternately in 3 batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The batter should be thick.

6. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, fold chopped oranges into mixture. Set the batter aside for 10 minutes, then distribute evenly between the prepared pans.

7. Sprinkle the pinenuts and the remaining one-half cup sugar over the cakes, then take the rosemary, pinch off little sprigs and stick them carelessly into the cake. 

8. Bake the cakes for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue to bake, rotating the cakes every 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, an additional 30 to 35 minutes.

9. Allow the cake to cool on a rack, in the pan, for about 15 minutes. Then run a knife around the inside of the pan and carefully invert it over a large plate to release the cake. Carefully turn it over and transfer it to a large serving plate.


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Paula Wolfert

February 17, 2014

Paula Wolfert has been an inspiration to so many of us. Her first book, on Moroccan food, was groundbreaking. When I traveled with her I discovered that she has the most remarkable palate of anyone I've ever met. And her cookbooks are beautifully researched and absolutely reliable.  When I heard that she’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease I was stunned and saddened. 

But Paula never does anything by half measures. She's a fighter. In typical Paula fashion, she’s become a leading spokesperson for Alzheimer’s.

To support her, a group of chefs including Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Farid Zadi, Nancy Silverton,and Robbie Richter are creating a Mediterranean Feast for Paula in Los Angeles on the afternoon of April 27th to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

The menu will feature recipes from Paula’s many books. The chefs are planning to roast a whole lamb, make Tunisian briks, bisteeya and Berber couscous.  The eclectic menu also includes, porchetta, paella, bouillabaisse, rabbit with preserved pears and ginger, duck with green olives and herbes de Provence…. it is kind of an endless feast. 

There will be an auction as well. Donations from chefs and cookbook authors are still coming in, but at the moment they include:

Signed cookbooks from Mario Batali. 

Eating tour of Rome from Elizabeth Minchelli.

Cooking classes from Suvir Saran.

A French butchery class from Farid Zadi. 

Tickets are $75. The event takes place on Saturday, April 27th from noon to 4 in L.A. 

Tickets at: http://mediterraneanfeast.tumblr.com/



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The Taco Crawl

February 16, 2014

We had good intentions. We were going to meet at the Guerilla Taco Truck at 11, then go on to four or five more taco places. The problem was that the Guerilla Tacos were so damn good we had to try them all. 

Guerilla Tacos are not your ordinary tacos. They’re high end, chef-driven tacos. Chef Wes Avila trained with Alain Ducasse and he’s worked at fancy kitchens across L.A.  There are no plebian ingredients at this particular truck:  it’s all local, sustainable, organic.


First up – and my hand’s down favorite – the pork taco. The pork, from Cook Pigs Ranch was crisp, rich, filled with fat and flavor.  Snuggled inside the taco with homemade salsa, some sliced radish and a few fronds of cilantro it was…. perfect.


But the others were impressive too. 


This kampachi-blood orange version looks more like the amuse bouche at Daniel than something you just purchased on a grubby sidewalk east of Downtown L.A.  You need to eat it correctly though; get too much of the crisp corn tortilla and it overwhelms the delicate fish. 


Broccoli, a lovely tangle of various flowering vegetables may look vegetarian, but the chef sneaked some crumbled sausage in as well. A delightful little shock when you suddenly get a pungent bite.

  Proscuitto 2

The Elegant Italian taco (my name, not theirs) is built on a brioche base.  On top: proscuitto, egg, scallions, pea shoots. 

There were more: a sunchoke version, with lots of caramelized onions.  Grilled sardines, fat, vinegary, a solid meal. Various burittos with sausages and eggs. We ate them all.

And then stopped, looking at each other with a certain horror.  We were supposed to hit four more places. We couldn't.

But, just for science, we went on to Boyle Heights and a taste of Mariscos Jalisco.  And that was where we encountered what will forever be the tostada of my dreams.


Tostada de cameron. Crisp taco shell. Tender shrimp. Perfect balance. Irresistible.  They're $1.75 each. This is two. Full disclosure: I ate every morsel.

And then, because the tostadas were so good, I had to order this taco de aguachile.  Hot. Hot. Hot. The yang to the yin of the hamachi taco at Guerilla. The flavor was singing in my mouth the whole drive home. 



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The Secret Beef Place

February 15, 2014

Totoraku, Los Angeles

This is one of those places people whisper about.  “You mean you really got in?”  They look at you suspiciously.  “How?”

The restaurant is so wary of unknown customers that it disguises itself as an empty storefront. It doesn’t take reservations. If you somehow get the phone number, the woman who answers will tell you they are fully booked. Forever. 

But if you know someone, who knows someone….

First off, it doesn’t look like much.  The kitchen occupies half the restaurant, the tables are modest, and the odd screens shielding the tables look as if they were rescued from a hospital that went out of business in the fifties. Dusty (empty) bottles of (very fancy) wine (red), sit on top of the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room.  This then, is all about the food. 

All about the beef, in fact; this is a meat-eater’s paradise, the meal I wanted to have in Osaka, the meal I couldn’t get because I could not make myself understood in that city’s equivalent of this restaurant. Although we were able to procure a reservation for the Osaka restaurant, we got there to discover that nobody spoke English. We ordered by pointing at the food on other people’s tables. All I can say is – we ordered wrong.

At Totoraku, however, you don't order.  You bring your own wine, and they bring you food. Last night's meal went like this:


This elegant platter of tiny tastes is the one non-meat offering.  It contains (amon other little tidbits) a tangle of shrimp topped with caviar, fragrant Japanese uni, crisp abalone, sesame tofu, wild yellowtail, delicate little avocado rolls and a dish of pickled cucumber topped with crisp bits of jellyfish.


Tender slices of raw beef. 

Beef tartar in the Korean style: cold squiggles of beef with Asian pear, sesame and a quail egg yolk.


More beef, served with grated horseradish and a garlic paste. The joy here is the raw beef on the right, which comes from the throat; smooth and silky, with the texture of toro, it simply evaporates in your mouth.

Now the hibachi comes out, along with a parade of different cuts.  I'm sorry to say I liked the soft, rich slices of tongue so much that I forgot to photograph them. Then there was this platter of filet mignon – the least impressive meat of the night – with lovely vegetables to grill. (There was also, full disclosure, a basket of raw vegetables, some marinated tomatoes, and a miso-based sauce to dip them in.)


Outside ribeye (this is the long muscle on the outside of a ribeye, which many consider the single best piece of meat on the animal).

Inside ribeye – fascinating, the different texture of this cut.


Boneless shortrib – my favorite of the lot.  

And finally, the soup with a bit of egg, spinach, and just a tiny scoop of rice. A perfect ending to the meal.

There was completely unnecessary sorbet for dessert.  In the end, what you remember is the meat. Chef Kaz Oyama won't say where he sources it, but it was, truly, spectacular.  


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Recipe for a Snowy Day

February 12, 2014

I'm sitting in sunshine, but an eastcoast friend has just asked for my garlic bread recipe; it is, he says, the only thing that will cheer him up. 

What a good idea. It's hard to be gloomy when garlic bread is broadcasting its seductive smell throughout the house.  

These days it's  both easier and harder to make a great loaf of garlic bread than it once was. Easier because good bread is everywhere. Harder because the influx of cheap, imported garlic has made good garlic an increasingly rare commodity.  Try to find garlic that looks young and fresh, and squeeze it to make sure it isn’t shrinking inside its skin. You don’t want old garlic because when it starts to sprout it gets nasty and very bitter, ruining everything it comes in contact with. You know the terrible taste I’m talking about.  If you can’t get your hands on good garlic, the only remedy is to go through your garlic, clove by clove, removing the bitter green sprout in the center.  It’s painstaking work, but it’s worth it.  

There are four other tricks to making great garlic bread. 

1. Use a lot of garlic, but really cook it for a while so it’s not raw and biting. 

2. Melt the butter–don’t just soften it—and brush it liberally across the bread.  When you think you’ve used enough, use more. 

3. Bake it twice: Once to get the bread warm and completely infused with the garlic butter. And again, at a higher temperature, to toast it to crisp, golden, crunchiness.  

4. Garlic bread should taste most of garlic and butter, but I love the complex flavors and spring-like look you get by adding lemon zest, parsley, or chives. But my favorite addition is a quarter cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, added just before it goes under the broiler, which makes this truly, decadently, delicious.  


GREAT Garlic Bread

1 loaf sturdy French or Italian bread

1 stick sweet butter

1 head garlic

Zest from 1 lemon (optional)

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped parsley or chives (optional)


Cut bread and preheat: Begin by cutting the bread in half, lengthwise (a serrated knife helps).  Preheat oven to 350⁰ F.

Prep garlic butter: Peel and finely chop the garlic. (For an easy way to peel garlic, drop the cloves into a pan of boiling water for 10 seconds, which will loosen the skins.) Melt a stick of sweet butter, and add the garlic. 

Slather bread: Slather the garlic butter onto the bread, cut side up, with a brush.  Let it soak in. Use it all, and evenly spread the bits of garlic all over. Now is the time to salt it if you want to, and to sprinkle on the zest.   

Bake: Bake the loaf, cut sides up, 15 minutes.Take the bread out now and do the final step just before serving. Turn the heat up to broil. Add cheese, if using. Broil for about 2 minutes, watching carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Sprinkle with herbs just as it comes out of the broiler and serve immediately. 





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