I have Olive Oil on the brain lately, since a friend is finishing her completely delightful book dedicated to everything you need to know about Olive Oil. She’s Greek, but wants to know my thoughts on French olive oils. So in addition to the olive oils I have brought back from Beaune and Paris, I have been doing a little research and looking into the various offerings of French olive oils we can find here in the U.S. so I can share a few sources with my friend this week, as we sample them together. I love French extra virgin olive oils “EVOO” (so I don’t have to keep retyping!), they are softer and fruitier than many of the California or Italian EVOOs I know and also love. French EVOO is best for finishing dishes, not to fry with: whether to sop up with bread and balsamic, or as a quite excellent vinaigrette on salads, over grilled vegetables or to toast croutons or slices of toasted bread.
Tasting EVOO is like wine, there are so many nuances and flavors and fragrances, depending on the specific cultivar and orchard. French olive oil production is along the Mediterranean, in the South of France, and they are generally so smooth, you can take a tiny sip them right from the bottle, or rub on your skin for hydration. There are some amazing productions from the south of France that I will hold off discussing for the moment, but among those that are readily available here, one continues to capture my heart, and that is a lavender-infused EVOO from the French house A L’Olivier, founded in 1822. Olivier is a great man’s name, but it also refers to the Olive cultivar, the same way that an orange tree is called Oranger in French. There is a nice A’Olivier shop with all their products at 23 rue de Rivoli near Saint Paul (the 4th). If you go, look for this little 5 ounce gem, in the lavender-colored tin, of course~
You can also find this great little tin for about $10 at Sur La Table stores and various online retailers. So here’s another way I like to use this oil: in cake. Rather than using butter or plain vegetable oil to make the cake moist, this recipe uses olive oil. I have eaten this classic cake in France, and have here adapted a recipe from the bakery Le Pain Quotidien. It’s a great, slightly caramelized and fragrant dessert made fresh and served hot from the oven with fresh whipped cream. Caution: my family loves to eat it right from the oven, and it’s OK but not great leftover the next day, in my opinion. But it’s a great summer dessert with an unusual flavor. You will need:
Five small apples; I used Gala here
Five tablespoons double-sifted all-purpose flour
Five tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons lavender-infused extra virgin olive oil (I used A l’Olivier’s or you can infuse your own)
2 tablespoons EVOO of your choice (not infused)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup honey + 1/4 cup agave syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a tarte pan or cake pan with parchment paper. This is a rather gooey cake, so I like to let the paper come out over the top of the pan. You’ll see in photos below.
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Peel and core the apples, and slice them into pieces. Rough cut is fine. Put them in your lined tarte pan.
Whisk together: the sugar, olive oils and two of the eggs. Add the flour and baking soda. Whisk and pour over the apples.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown, like this. As you take the cake out of the oven, turn up the temperature to 400 degrees.
In the same bowl you used for the first batter, mix the last two eggs and the honey and agave. For this recipe I used honey and agave; you can use all honey if you like. Look for nice flavored local honeys if you can; I am using wildflower.
Whisk together the eggs and honey and agave, and pour over the partially baked cake; it’s ok for it to run into the cracks at the side of the cake:
Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 15 minutes. For presentation, you can add a few thin slices of apple before you put this back in the oven. Remove from the oven and dust with powdered sugar and garnish as you like with lavender flowers. But if your family is like mine, this cake doesn’t stand a chance of cooling down or even being garnished. They were in this cake last night before dinner was on the table.
Top with fresh whipped cream. It’s very very delicious~
This makes an easy and tasty summer dessert, one that will suit a number of palates and you can make last minute if you keep a few apples on hand. Look for the lavender olive oil if you can, or keep it in mind for gifts. It’s a great little French pantry staple. Bon week-end and bon appetit~