I love to people-watch, but perhaps even more, I love to people-listen. I’m absolutely mad about accents. There’s nothing better to identify place, and nothing so comforting as the lilting sound of a nasal A, a western twang or southern drawl when you feel lost or a teensy bit homesick. Same goes for regional words. Even those who have gone to great pains to erase their vocal geography and mimic TV anchor speech give themselves away when it comes to the words of their land. So let’s play a game of guess the geographical vernacular! All-righty then, if you’re wicked smaaht you’ll probably know where to order jimmies. And if not, well, not fuh nuthin but, maybe you’re just a bag of hammers, bless your heart. Did you guess them all? That’s freakin’ AWESOME!
I’ve always found it valuable when traveling to learn a bit of the language of the location. It’s a sign of respect and always makes me feel a little less the tourist, even though I may be butchering the native tongue. I know a soupcon of français, un po italiano and enough deutsch to get by and feel like I made the attempt. When I first visited Oregon I didn’t notice much of a native accent, but what I did notice was awesome. It seems ‘awesome’ is the adjective of choice in this land. It doesn’t seem to be exclusively Oregonian, but since I’ve landed in the world of marionberries, microbrews and windsurfing, my ears have averaged about 3 awesomes a day. Which is actually pretty low considering how many things here really are awesome. There’s the land itself, stunning in it’s beauty, especially when there’s some mist rising from the river in the early morning. The river, well that’s pretty darn awesome too, when it’s capped by a rainbow or reflecting the frequent awesome sunsets. We have awesome coffee here, lots of awesome coffee. Beer too. And the wine? Yup, awesome.
But probably most awesome in the ranking of awesomeness are the people. They are a friendly lot, warm, incredibly generous, and welcoming, even to a Gotham gal with ill-hidden accent. That’s not always the reaction to city slickers, especially ones from the biggest apple. This accent carries baggage and assumptions, as I suppose most do. Yet when my story unfolds, the vast majorities respond with a friendly ‘awesome’, and then introduce me to my next new friend. Not fuh nuthin but, picking this place is looking like a wicked awesome decision. Ja, you betcha….
Starting a business anywhere is tough, so picking a good location is key. It’s feeling more and more like starting my business here was the perfect spot. Part of what I’d like Cooking in My Heels (the business) to be is a place for the culinarily curious to learn the love of cooking and baking. Sure there’s the occasionally pithy commentary and instruction contained in this blog, but to really learn, you have to get your hands dirty. Last week I had the opportunity to participate as an invited teacher in a cooking class held in the lovely Lucia’s kitchen. And it was absolutely awesome! Small bites made with Lucia’s Calabrian love, shrimp cooked on a salt block (seriously awesome technique), a finale of sweet and silky tiramisu prepared by the beautiful Claudia, and a little something from yours truly. That little something was orange olive oil cake – one of my favorites and something I’ve made a few dozen times since first having it in Rome 15 years ago.
This time around I decided to play a little with the recipe before sharing it with the class. The result was Awesome Orange Olive Oil Cake. A substitution of some of the flour with almond meal, and using half fresh orange juice and half thawed OJ concentrate created a new depth of flavor that was, well, awesome. This is one of those cakes that actually gets better over time, so it’s the perfect thing to make ahead and lasts several days on the counter loosely covered.
Hopefully this will be the first of many classes with my new cooking friends, and the first of many shared recipes from class. As Mama Lucia would say… Buon Appetito e Mille giornate deliziosi!
Awesome Orange Olive Oil Cake
(Adapted from The New York Times Dessert Cookbook)
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the pan
- 1 ¾ cups superfine sugar (if you don’t have superfine, you can make it by processing regular sugar for a minute in food processor)
- 1 cup flour
- ½ cup almond flour (almond meal)
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/3 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
- Zest from two oranges
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- Pinch of salt (about 1/8th tsp)
- Powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil and flour a 10” spring form pan. I always have olive oil spray on hand and use it for this.
Wisk the flour, almond meal, baking soda and powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg until will mixed, then stream in the superfine sugar. Beat on medium speed until pale and thick and the sugar is almost all dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.
In a measuring cup with a spout mix the orange juice and concentrate with the zest and olive oil until incorporated. With the mixer running on medium low, alternate adding dry and wet ingredients into the sugar mixture in thirds, ending with the dry ingredients.
Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly. This is a relatively thin, but very rich cake. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, turn, and bake another 15 minutes. Because of the oil, the top of the cake will get brown before the cake is completely done, so after about a half hour I put a piece of foil over the pan loosely. After 30 minutes, drop the temperature to 350 and bake another 10-15 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Total baking time is about 45 minutes.
Let cool 15 minutes in pan, then remove the sides and let cool completely. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. The top of this cake may crack or sink. Don’t worry about that – the powdered sugar covers it up nicely, and the cracks add to the cake’s character. Calories: about 350 per slice.
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