Stracciatella Rosemary Olive Oil Cake, Until Morale Improves

My kitchen and I are still getting used to one another. 

A recent roast chicken came out looking as though it had spent late summer in Saint Tropez without a drop of sunscreen, arriving leathery and suspiciously dark.  Cast iron seems to be the only sensible option for the stovetop.  And I am occasionally cutting burnt edges off broiled toast. 

I’m half tempted to post a threatening sign above my oven that reads: “the cooking will continue until morale improves.”  But then again, I have cake.  Cake has not given me problems. Go figure. 

And—whoa—this most recent recipe is really something.  It came about because I was in the mood for cake (when is one not?), but had frozen butter to contend with. Not one to give up on dessert—and not feeling particularly patient—I downshifted and went searching for a rich, oil-based sweet instead.  A magazine clipping for Kim Boyce’s spelt olive oil cake (with chocolate) was the front-runner.  Until I realized I didn’t have spelt.  Or whole wheat, for that matter.

I found a quick fix in The Babbo Cookbook, which promised a rosemary olive oil cake worthy of a midday glass of wine.  (I took them up on this, and did not regret it.)  So I came up with a compromise between recipes.  Boyce had to pardon the dearth of whole grain, and Babbo had to make room for chocolate.

The result is dessert in perfect harmony.  The rosemary is present, without being overpowering; it offers a nice herbal note that keeps the chocolate in line, but doesn’t fight with it.  Instead of chunks or chips, I shaved off Stracciatella-like shards from a salted almond Taza disk.  This way the chocolate lightly flecks, rather than invades.

To assuage any worried souls that I have been eating very little but cake the past few weeks, fear not.  I have instituted Roast Chicken Fridays.  Wherein I become a tragic soul who stays in, does laundry, reads some Malthusian theory, and vows to continue chicken roasting until the results are decidedly less tanning bed-esque.

Oh.  And I also finish the night in the company of rosemary cake with wispy chocolate bits, and a glass or two of wine.  Because Babbo said so.  And they have yet to do me wrong.

Stracciatella Rosemary Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from The Babbo Cookbook


butter for the pan
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
2/3 cup quality olive oil
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ tsp kosher salt
2 oz salted almond dark chocolate (or other chocolate of finest quality), thinly cut into shards or shaved


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 10-inch loaf pan (I used a 10 x 3 inch pan, which is a bit narrower than usual, and had enough leftover batter to make 1 cupcake, as well); set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs with a whip attachment for about 30 seconds; add the sugar and whip until foamy and pale yellow.  With the mixer still running, slowly (carefully) add in the olive oil.  Fold in the rosemary.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients (about a third at a time).  Stop once all the flour has been added (it is okay to see bits of flour not yet incorporated).  Fold in the chocolate until the flour and chocolate bits are just combined (do not over mix).

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes; rotate the pan halfway through the cooking.  The cake is done when golden brown and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean after it’s inserted into the center of the cake.

Allow to cool briefly in the pan on a cooling rack and then run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake before tipping it out.

-You may want to line the pan with parchment paper after you grease it (and then grease the parchment), to help ease the cake out.  Mine came out in one piece, but it was touch and go for a bit. 

-The original recipe bakes the cake at 325 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.  I did not feel like waiting any longer than I had to.  

-The chocolate I used was 40% dark.  Also this isn't an overly sweet dessert, which makes it perfect as a snack or leisurely light breakfast.


The Aquinas Amaro Soda by Way of Safe Passage

According to Thomas Aquinas, drunkenness isn’t a mortal sin if your intention (and I’m paraphrasing here) isn’t to get plastered.  My friend Theresa calls this—in her own scholarly way—“accidental drunk.”  Which—per Thomas—is a “venial.”

For those who weren’t raised Catholic, I’ll quickly move this along.  Venial sin = not good.  Mortal sin = very, very bad.  So you can imagine the irony: me reading Thomas’s views on sobriety whilst drinking an Amaro cocktail.

Though I should come clean.  I’ve technically had one of these beverages four out of the last six nights.  They’re good.  The original hails from Kenaniah Bystrom, the bar manager of Essex, in Seattle.  (Which was inspired by a drink from Franny’s, in Brooklyn.)  Essex calls their cocktail, “Safe Passage.”  Here’s what you need to know. 

If you are going to have a lone intoxicant on a Monday night, best not to open a bottle of Prosecco, which is what Safe Passage originally called for. (This would not, in fact, be a “safe” “passage” for one.)  You are treading into mortal sin territory.  (Bubbles don't last.)

So I substituted club soda and the perfect light aperitif was born.  It has quickly become my go-to drink pre-dinner, or when trying to digest scholasticism.  It’s a perfect balance of salt, sweet, bitter, plus bubbles.  Which is everything I could ever ask for in a cocktail, plus hints of licorice, citrus, and vanilla delivered by way of liquid coral-colored sunset. 

As the name implies, it’s a safe passage for all.  So hey, Aquinas, make mine a double. 

The Aquinas Amaro Soda
Inspired by Molly Wizenberg and Brandon Pettit's cocktail column in Food52


2 ounces Amaro (Nonino is my preference)
½ ounce Aperol
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce Castelvetrano olive brine
3 ounces club soda, cold
2 Castelvetano olives


In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the Amaro, Aperol, lemon juice, and olive brine.  Shake vigorously for 5 to 10 seconds.  Strain into a cocktail glass (I love coupe glasses).  Pour in the club soda and garnish with olives.

Makes 1 cocktail

-I doubled the original amounts of Amaro, Aperol, olive brine, and lemon juice because it's so light in booze.  The recipe for the original is here.  Though I like this drink before food, it would be equally as good after—if you are in need of a digestif—given the Amaro.

-About that Amaro.  If you can’t find Nonino, others you could try include: Lucano, Montenegro, Zara, or Nardini (there’s a wealth out there).  Amaro is essentially a spirit made with roots, herbs, and flowers blended with citrus, combined with another alcohol (Nonino uses brandy), and sweetened with sugar. 

-The recipe calls for Castelvetano olives, and I can’t stress this enough.  They are fairly mellow and have soft vanilla notes which are really lovely in this cocktail.  I also used Fever-Tree club soda.

-Theresa, I do believe this drink is right up your alley.  Beware of accidental drunkenness.


Skillet Corn Cakes, Buon Giorno and Buona Sera

Hi.  I’m still here. 

I survived the move to the North End.  In a terrible cliché, I am currently drinking an Italian red and eating rolled up slices of mortadella.  Dave and I don’t have the luxury yet of sitting on a couch or at a dining table, but we do have a nice little impromptu bar cart and are surrounded by neighborhood joints that aim to feed.

What I’m trying to say is we are a work-in-progress.  In kind, I have yet to prepare a full dinner in my kitchen.  Not to suggest these corn cakes aren’t a proper meal.  It’s just that you can only plop an egg on something so many times before 'breakfast-as-dinner' stops being cute.  (You can see I’ve now resorted to Italian cold cuts and vino.)

But about these corn cakes.  They are toasty and nutty, perfect companions for melty cheese or a drippy yolk.  I cooked them in a cast-iron skillet, as I now have an electric stovetop that behaves as though heating something uniformly would be an insult.

The cakes were bookmarked from a recent Lebovitz post and are here serving as a prostitute for late summer produce.  They are quick to make; universal in appeal; and flexible for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 

Eat them hot, with or without Italian bologna.  

Skillet Corn Cakes
Adapted from David Lebovitz, originally by way of Chez Panisse Vegetables


1½ cups corn flour or finely ground cornmeal
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp chili powder
4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for cooking the cakes
1 tbsp honey
½ cup coconut milk
2 eggs, separated
1 egg white
2 large ears of corn (about 2 cups kernels), husks removed and kernels sliced off
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro 
1 jalapeño, finely diced


In a large bowl, whisk together the corn flour (or cornmeal), baking powder, salt, and chili powder.  Make a well in the center of the mixture; set aside.  In a small saucepan, heat the butter, honey, coconut milk, and ½ cup water; when the butter is melted, set aside to cool slightly.

Place the two egg yolks in the center of the corn well.  In a separate bowl, by hand—or using an electric mixer—beat the three egg whites until stiff (they should hold their shape when the whisk or whisk attachment is lifted).

To the corn mixture, add the coconut honey liquid, corn kernels, cilantro, and jalapeño; stir to combine.  Fold in the egg whites until fully incorporated.

Heat some butter (about a tablespoon) in a cast-iron skillet or sauté pan.  Once the pan is hot, spoon ¼ to 1/3 cup of batter in a mound in the pan; repeat with as many spoons of batter as can comfortably fit in the pan (for my pan this was three).  Let the cakes cook until they are browned on the bottom and their edges start to bubble; flip until lightly browned on the other side (about another minute).  Repeat until the remaining batter is used up.

Serve hot or reheat in a skillet or oven.

Makes about a dozen.


-These happen to be both gluten-free (check your spices if you have celiac disease) and milk (but not dairy) free.

-I used cornmeal from Misty Brook Farm.  (It’s wonderful.  However, make sure if you are using cornmeal it’s very finely ground (it should be almost like a powder).

-Omit the jalapeño (or remove its seeds) for less heat.