Clementine and Olive Oil Muffins


Everyone has their favorite candy from their childhood. I have several. There was the luscious Galaxy milk chocolate bar. It was more expensive than others, so it was a rare treat. There were the pink and white individual marshmallows, so intensely sweet that they burned the back of my throat. But there was one sugary treat that I always loved. It was a mandarin-flavored hard candy that came in a pack of around ten of them. It was tantalizingly tart and sweet and it had this perfect, completely artificial mandarin flavor that I adored. It seems to have completely disappeared from the market. I wonder if I tried it now, decades later, if I would still enjoy the chemically-created taste that I used to love.dsc05322

You don’t need to worry about any artificial flavor with these muffins. They get theirs from clementine zest and juice, so it’s a lot more subtle than a hard candy. I had seen this recipe for olive oil muffins on David Lebovitz’s website and when I opened the fridge and saw a few clementines that needed to be eaten soon, I decided to adapt the recipe to use them instead of an orange. The result is a moist, not too sweet muffin, with a subtle taste of clementine. The slight bitterness and sweet tartness of the clementines combines really well with the olive oil. If I hadn’t made them myself, I would have had a hard time guessing what that mysterious flavor was when I bit into them.  They are nothing like my childhood favorite candy, and that’s a good thing.

Clementine and Olive Oil Muffins – Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes 12 muffins


1 1/3 cups (185g) flour
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (180ml) fruity extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated clementine or tangerine zest
1/3 cup fresh clementine juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Put liners in a 12-muffin pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil, milk, eggs, zest, and juice.

3. Add the dry ingredients in the wet ingredients. Stir them together with a flexible spatula until they are just combined but do not overmix. There may be some minor lumps in the batter, which are fine.

4. Fill the muffin molds 2/3rds to 3/4ths full of batter and bake until they just feel set in the center and the tops are golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool a bit before serving.

Frozen Lemon Squares with Olive Oil and Sea Salt


The first dessert I ever made from scratch were lemon squares. The recipe came from my very first cookbook, The Absolute Beginner’s Cookbook, Revised 3rd Edition: Or How Long Do I Cook a 3 Minute Egg?. I had never really had lemon squares (or lemon bars) before. It’s not a dessert I grew up with. But I was instantly hooked. I loved the shortbread crust and the intensely tart and sweet filling. Over the years I made that recipe a lot but as my tastes became a little more sophisticated, I started to find the lemon squares too rich and cloying for me. So I stopped making them.dsc05308

Then, about a year and a half ago, the amazing Melissa Clark of the New York Times posted a recipe and a video where she made lemon squares (or bars, as she called them), using both butter and olive oil and topping them with a touch of flaky sea salt. Steve was instantly smitten and he has been asking for them ever since. We finally got around to making them a couple of weeks ago. They are, of course, fantastic. The olive oil adds some adult notes to the curd filling and the salt kicks everything up a few notches. The only problem was that these had to be eaten fairly soon, and even for us, that would have been too much dessert. So, we though we’d try and freeze them, thinking that it wouldn’t work because the filling with ooze once it thawed.

We were so, so wrong. One day later, I reached into the freezer drawer and gently pressed on the top of one of the lemon squares. The filling wasn’t frozen at all. It was still soft. All that sugar and fat prevented it from freezing. So, I pulled two lemon squares out of the freezer and we both took a bite. That was a seminal moment in our lives…as far as lemon squares are concerned. The (not so) frozen treats were so much better than their merely refrigerated versions that I doubt we will ever eat them any other way. The cold temperature tempers the sweetness and the filling has a little more structure to it. The shortbread crust is not too hard to bite into. The whole thing is irresistible.dsc05305

Frozen Lemon Squares with Olive Oil and Sea Salt – Very slightly adapted from the New York Times


1 ¼ cups/155 grams all-purpose flour
¼ cup/50 grams granulated sugar
3 tablespoons/25 grams confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons/142 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

4 to 6 lemons
1 ½ cups/300 grams sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 yolks
1 ½ teaspoons/5 grams cornstarch
Pinch of fine sea salt
4 tablespoons/57 grams butter
¼ cup/60 milliliters fruity extra-virgin olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling


Heat oven to 325 degrees and line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with enough parchment to hang over two of the sides (to be used as handles later to lift the bars out of the pan).

To make the shortbread base, pulse together the flour, granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and salt in a food processor, or whisk together in a large bowl. Add butter and pulse (or use two knives or your fingers) to cut the butter into the flour until a crumbly dough forms. Press dough into prepared pan and bake until shortbread is pale golden all over, 30 to 35 minutes.

While the shortbread is baking, prepare the lemon curd: Grate 1/2 tablespoon zest from lemons and set aside. Squeeze lemons to yield 3/4 cup juice.

In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, sugar, eggs and yolks, cornstarch and fine sea salt over medium heat until boiling and thickened, 2 to 5 minutes. Make sure mixture comes to a boil or the cornstarch won’t activate. But once it boils do not cook for longer than 1 minute or you risk the curd thinning out again. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Whisk in butter, olive oil and lemon zest.

When the shortbread is ready, take it out of the oven and carefully pour the lemon curd onto the shortbread base; return the pan to the oven. Bake until topping is just set, 10 to 15 minutes more. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold before cutting into bars.

At this point they are ready to eat. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and flaky sea salt right before serving. However, do yourself a favor and put them all in the freezer in one layer (before sprinkling confenctioner’s sugar and salt and them) and leave them there for 24 hours. At that point, you can serve them straight from the freezer. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and flaky sea salt and enjoy.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake


Spring is (sort of) finally here! Temperatures are above freezing and we have actual continuous periods of sunshine. Sure, it’s raining today, but I don’t care. Because Steve and I are taking off for a weeklong trip to Cyprus with three of our friends. We’ll visit my family and drive around the island in search of poppy covered mountainsides, turquoise blue seas, orange blossom scented villages, and lots and lots of good food. DSC03763

No two ingredients say “Meditteranean!” better than olive oil and lemons. They are at the very core of the soul of the people that have lived for millennia around this beautiful sea, with its temperate climate (though not always as warm or friendly as most people think) and plentiful fish (which are currently endangered from overfishing and pollution).

So, in honor of our Mediterranean adventure, I give you my favorite version of a lemon olive oil cake. You gotta love a cake that has a total of five ingredients. All things you probably have at home right now. With these humble ingredients you can have a cake that is not overly sweet and incredibly tender, making it an equally good option for afternoon tea or breakfast. Top it off with a dollop of lemon curd or sweetened whipped cream and you have a great dessert. This is a cake that in every bite, you can taste what it’s made of: the taste of eggs is right there, cut through by the acidity of the lemons, while everything is smoothed out by the mild grassiness of the olive oil.DSC03775Lemon Olive Oil Cake – Slightly adapted from


3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
1 lemon (preferably organic/unsprayed)
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising) (see here for instructions on how to make your own cake flour)
5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch (24-cm) springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough all the lemon zest and whisk it together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.

Lemon Olive Oil Custard


A couple of years ago, we finally got rid of our rickety old blender, the one I had had since my early days in New York, when I threw big parties in my 400 sq ft studio apartment, telling friends and acquaintances to bring their own friends (“especially if they are cute, wink, wink”) and ending up with 100 people squeezed in that tiny space, my bed disassembled and the mattress leaning on the wall on its side to make room, and the white kitchen tile floor turning sticky and charcoal grey from spilled drinks stepped over many times by city worn shoes.


What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the blender. Many a frozen drink were prepared in that little blender. Did we care that the drinks were always too icy instead of smooth, with the all too frequent stubborn chunks of frozen fruit chocking our straws? No, we didn’t care. We were too drunk, too young, too happy to care.

But the time came to give up youthful blenders and chunky cocktails. So we splurged and bought a Vitamix blender. We never looked back (like with so many things from our younger days). This thing will blend anything in seconds. Give it a few minutes at full speed and it will actually heat up whatever you’re blending, enough to cook it. Which is convenient, when you’re trying to make a cooked custard in a blender. This recipe is genius (it comes in fact from Genius Recipes at Use good olive oil and substitute regular lemons for Meyer lemons if you can’t find them.

And when you’re done, eat it with a spoon (it’s spreadable, more like a curd) and reminisce about your partying days of yore.



Lemon Olive Oil Custard – Slightly adapted from

Notes: This recipe was tested with a Vitamix Professional Series blender. Set the blender at its top speed and run for a total process time of 5 minutes 45 seconds. Any other blender will most likely not cook the custard and will leave it raw. If you don’t have a high speed blender, simply blend until smooth and frothy in step 2, stream in the olive oil with the motor running, then pour into a double boiler or bowl set over gently simmering water on the stovetop, stirring until it thickens up (it should reach 160 degrees for fully cooked eggs, or hold at 140 degrees for 3 1/2 minutes).


3 whole eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest (or regular lemon zest)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup very good quality extra virgin olive oil


1. Place all ingredients but the olive oil in a high-speed blender (capable of generating frictional heat above 160 F). If you don’t have a high-speed blender, see note above.

2. Turn the blender on to its highest setting and process for 4 minutes.

3. While continuing to run on high speed, pour in the olive oil and blend for an additional 90 to 105 seconds until you can see the custard firming up on the sides.

4. The custard can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for longer storage. When defrosted, it will return to the same creamy consistency as when fresh.

Zucchini with Eggs (Kolokouthkia me t’afka / Κολοκουθκια με τ’αφκα)


We had arrived a couple of days earlier. It was Steve’s first time in my hometown and I was driving him around, showing him the places where I grew up. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day and we were walking around the old part of the city. It had gone through many transformations, from the bustling commercial center of town to a neglected ghost of its past glory, until several years ago it was turned into a pedestrian-only zone. There was a lot of complaining from the store owners, that the lack of cars would kill the little business they had left. Instead, the area transformed itself. Old buildings were restored. Restaurants and coffee shops opened everywhere. People rediscovered the joy of walking, unencumbered by cars. Retro became cool and the area blossomed.


So there we were, walking along the “main” street (what used to be a narrow, single-lane road, but the “main” one nevertheless) when we decided to look for a place to eat. We passed by a few places, with tables out on the street, awash in sunshine, but we decided to keep looking. We turned the corner into a little side street when Steve spotted it. It was not much. An old (really old), low building in the back of an alley, with a concrete floor yard, covered with thatched straw, providing a welcome shade for us. It was a small restaurant that opened for lunch and sold just a few homemade dishes, simple and traditional, enough to feed the motley crew of locals that were hanging out outside. We took a table and ordered.


I don’t remember what else we ate there. But I do remember that we ordered kolokouthkia me t’afka (zucchini with eggs). It seemed an unremarkable choice for me. It was something I grew up with, a quick solution for a meal when my mom was pressed for time. But I also remember Steve’s face when he took his first taste. His eyes lit up with that look of amazement and discovery we both get when we taste something remarkable. “Why have we not had this before?” he said. Truth was, I had forgotten about it. Needless to say, we have had this dish many times every since.

There were a lot of memories made on that trip. There were the drives through villages redolent with the aroma of orange blossoms. There was the lunch on top of a rock overlooking the Mediterranean Sea as we watched a storm approach. But before all of those there was this, the simple meal of zucchini with eggs, cooked in olive oil and showered with fresh lemon juice.

Zucchini with Eggs (Kolokouthkia me t’afka)

Makes 2 servings


Half a medium onion, chopped
1 large zucchini (about 10oz-12oz/280gr-340gr)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon
salt and pepper


Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and then slice crosswise very thin (about 1/8″) using a very sharp knife or a mandolin. Whisk eggs in a small bowl with some salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for about 2 minutes until onion just begins to soften but hasn’t started to brown yet. Increase heat to medium-high and add the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until zucchini is cooked and lightly browned at the edges (about 15-17 minutes).

Reduce heat to medium and add eggs. Cook, stirring often, until eggs are cooked through, about 2-4 minutes.

Serve immediately with lots of fresh lemon juice squeezed on top (we use the juice of an entire lemon for two servings).

Agrumato Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I didn’t have a post for you last weekend. I do have something coming up for next weekend, but for now I wanted to share with you this amazing olive oil. It’s called Agrumato Lemon and it’s an olive oil that is actually pressed with lemons. The result is a classic flavor combination: grassy, smooth olive oil with sharp, zippy lemon.


The first time I got this (Steve gave it to me as a gift), I was skeptical. I thought it would taste artificial or that the lemon would be overpowering. But in fact it’s neither. This isn’t cooking oil. It’s a condiment, as good olive oil is supposed to be used. Drizzle it over roasted veggies or make a simple vinaigrette with it. Our favorite way to use it is to drizzle it over grilled chicken breasts and then top them with some fresh or dried oregano.

You can buy it on Amazon or at Zingerman’s.

Oven Poached Fish in Olive Oil

I’ve always loved cooking for people. I rarely cook just for myself. This is partly because cooking is an activity with a very specific end result. When I cook, I create something. And that’s something I want to share. Often it’s something I want to show off. I’ll be the first to admit that humility is not an ingredient in my cooking.


So, I’ve always loved having dinner parties. Even when I lived in apartments with impossibly small kitchens, I’d have friends over for dinner. Out of a half size oven and a workspace the size of school desk, I have produced multi course meals for eight people. When Steve and I met, we found our love for food was mutual. So, the dinner parties continued and became more elaborate. We started pairing wines with every course. We printed menus.


The only problem with such extravagant affairs has been that at times we ended up spending more time in the kitchen than at the table with our friends. So, over the last few years I’ve adjusted our menus, opting for dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and served easily and quickly. This recipe is one of our favorites. It takes 15 minutes to put together but the result is delicious and impressive.


Fish is especially difficult for dinner parties. It so often requires cooking right before eaten, it smells up the kitchen, and it can easily be overcooked. By poaching it gently in the oven in olive oil, this recipe takes care of all of those problems. In fact, I’ve often left it in the oven for 30 minutes past what the recipe says and I’ve never had any problems with it. The fish always comes out tender, moist, and flavorful.

If you are worried about the amount of olive oil, don’t be. The fish absorbs almost none of it. And in the end, you can strain the olive oil and keep it in the fridge. Use it whenever you cook anything with seafood. It will have only the slightest hint of the fish, capers, and lemons.


Oven Poached Fish in Olive Oil – Slightly adapted from

Makes 4 servings


1/4 cup capers, rinsed
2 – 2 1/2 lb (1-inch-thick) skinless, firm, white flesh fish fillets (such as halibut or chilean sea bass)
1 1/2 large lemons, very thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
About 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil (enough to cover the fish)


Preheat oven to 250°F.

Chop half of capers and pat fish dry. Sprinkle fish with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and let stand 10 minutes at room temperature. Arrange half of lemon slices in 1 layer in an 8-inch square glass baking dish and arrange fish in 1 layer over lemon. Top with all of capers, remaining lemon slices, and 3 tablespoons parsley, then pour oil over fish. Bake in middle of oven, uncovered, until fish just flakes and is cooked through, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Serve fish with some of lemon slices, capers, and oil spooned over. Sprinkle with remaining parsley.