Posts Tagged ‘Olive oil’

Pickled Fig Tarts © dinaavila

All images © Dina Avila

DinaFlourish (1)22

Well this was interesting. Did you know phyllo dough and puff pastry are not the same thing? Similar, of course, but not necessarily to be used interchangeably as I learned this morning. It was one of those early mornings of chopping onions with weeping eyes wondering why I got started before having enough tea. These crazy warm summery spring days we’re having in Portland means the light changes so quickly – beautiful soft light turns into harsh sun in a flash in my kitchen – which means I need to crawl out of bed fairly early if I want to shoot for the blog. So here we are, after a mildly shaky morning with a paring knife wondering what the heck Saveur is talking about, with these, shall we call them ‘rustic’?, savory tarts.

Oh, but they’re good. As we know, rustic is my style, right? So let’s call the whole thing intentional. Julia Child always said to never apologize for your mistakes in the kitchen. So here you go. I made them this way :)



Pickled Fig Savory Tarts with Kale and Fennel

Adapted from Saveur

I used a fig spread that I received as a gift for Christmas (thank you Heather & Brett). 

Feel free to substitute the figs for 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 medium fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 bunch kale, chopped in to bite-sized pieces

1/3 cup sheep’s milk feta, crumbled, plus more for topping

1/4 cup picked figs

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

1 170z box phyllo dough, thawed

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Coarse sea salt


Warm oil in a large pan over medium heat.

Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown. About 5 minutes.

Stir in fennel and garlic and cook for about another 5 minutes.

Lower heat to medium low and stir in chopped kale.

Add a splash of water, cover and let cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and fold in feta and parsley.

Season with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

Warm oven to 375.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Lightly flour a large work surface and lay thawed phyllo dough down.

Divide the phyllo in half, laying the two halves side by side.

With a paring knife, cut about 9 squares out of each half of phyllo.

Take each square and slice an L shaped slit that’s about an inch long onto each corner.

Fold the corners toward each other so they overlap – Trust me, it’s hard to explain which is why I had so much trouble this morning. Fold them in a way that makes sense to you, but you basically want to create a pocket for the filling to rest in.

Using a large spatula, place six of the tarts onto each baking sheet.

Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the pickled figs into the center of the tarts.

Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the kale mixture on top of the figs.

Crumble a bit of feta on to each tart.

Place the pans in the oven on two racks and bake for about 30 minutes rotating the pans halfway through.

Serve warm with a bit more crumbled feta and a dusting of coarse sea salt.


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I hadn’t planned on making these cookies for a blog post, but they turned out so good that I felt it would only be fair to share. Adam and I are going to a Spanish themed dinner tonight at our Chef/Geologist friend’s house and these not too sweet cookies seemed like an appropriate offering. They are surprisingly simple and quick to make, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think there was a stick of butter in each morsel.

© Dina Avila
These pictures are shot more informally than usual. My kitchen is my studio and I usually lay everything out with deliberation and intent with my camera secured to my tripod. Today, I just popped on a fast lens and shot free hand with the cookies resting in their traveling receptacle. Quick and easy just like these cookies.


Olive Oil Saffron Cookies

I gleaned this recipe from Mark Bittman’s blog. I only tweaked it a little bit by adding a hair more salt than the pinch he recommended and by replacing the orange zest and Grand Mariner with lemon zest and whiskey.

What you’ll need~

A small pinch of saffron threads

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 olive oil

2 eggs

Zest from one lemon

2 tablespoons whiskey

Lavender sugar and or coarse sea salt for dusting, optional

Preheat your oven to 350.

Add one tablespoon of boiling water to a pinch of saffron in a medium bowl. Swirl the water in bowl around and let sit for about a minute.

Stir the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Using a stand or a hand mixer, add the sugar and olive oil to the saffron and beat until light. About 1-2 minutes.

Add the eggs and beat until the mixture gets creamy and fluffy.

Beat in the lemon zest and the whiskey.

Stir in the wet mix to the dry mix.

Drop spoonfuls (about two teaspoons) of the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden.

Dust with lavender sugar and or coarse sea salt.

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila

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There is something innately punk rock in me. If everyone is doing it, I just can’t jump on board. Be it fashion, books, or food.  I don’t own a pair of skinny jeans or anything furry or Ugg related. It took me years (much to my disappointment) to read David Sedaris (seriously, everyone was reading David Sedaris, so I, of course, read Steinbeck), and I’ve resisted farro. For the past year or so farro has been the big “foodie” item. Every food magazine you pick up is talking about farro. Blogs? Farro. So I just couldn’t join in. My punk rock sensibilities wouldn’t allow it.

This week, however, I gave in. While sifting through the Zuni Café Cookbook I came across a recipe involving farro. My first instinct, as always, was to consider the alternatives. Arborio? Barley? Hmm, well, OK maybe I’ll try farro. Just this once.

And it was OK, the first night. But just OK. I sat with Adam as we ate this somewhat boring dinner I wondered where I went wrong. After each bite, “should I have added more lemon zest?” or “can you even taste the sage?” and “I should have been heavier handed with the spices and mushrooms” “ I should have added parmesan and made a true risotto”  “Lamb?”

Adam is so patient with me.

But this dish, although it won’t knock your socks off, is significantly better the next day. Farro is a dominant little grain. It stays chewy and nutty and, I found, it absorbs liquid but holds its own against other flavors. Letting it sit for a day allowed those taste to penetrate and the dish opened itself up to find its balance. The flavors need time to meld and mingle and the sage will begin to gently reveal itself after lingering for 24 hours.

Although it was definitely a challenge and not very accommodating (perhaps farro is a little punk rock too), at least at first, I think farro will stay on my list of foods to play with.


Curious, what’s your experience with farro?

P.S. I LOVE photographing mushrooms, hence all of the mushroom shots in today’s post. Their monochromatic nature of them really turns me on.

Mushroom Farro with Lemon Zest and Poached Chicken

Adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook

What you’ll need~

1/4 cup olive oil

About half of a yellow onion, diced

3-4 dried sage leaves, crumbled. Or 3 fresh sage leaves, chopped

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and chopped

1/4 lb Oyster, or other fresh mushrooms, chopped

1-1/3 cups farro

1/2 cup green lentils

Zest and juice from one lemon

5-6 cups chicken broth (I used pre-made but I think homemade would have made a noticeable difference in flavor)

1 bunch watercress, gently torn

Salt and pepper to taste

Percorino Romano, shaved

2 chicken breast, poached, or cooked how you like, and shredded

Warm about half of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, sage, pinch or two of salt and fresh

mushrooms. Cooking, stirring often, until the onion is translucent.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the farro and the remaining olive oil. Stir to coat the farro.

Add one-third of your stock and dried mushroom.

Cook at a simmer, stirring often, until the stock has been absorbed.

Add lentils and next third of stock stirring often until stock has been absorbed. Repeat adding stock and stirring until farro and lentils are tender. This may take anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour.

Stir in lemon zest and juice.

Remove from heat, stir in watercress and chicken, cover and let sit. The heat from your stew will gently wilt your watercress.

Serve warm with a generous shaving of pecorino romano.

Our kitty likes to hang out with me while I work :)

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Every week, well, almost every week, I like to make a soup or a stew so Adam and I can have an easy and inexpensive lunch to get us through the workweek. I call it our one-pot meal. I started doing this a couple of years ago to help us save money, and to (secretly) avert Adam’s seemingly uncontrollable urge to eat at Pizzicato every day. Which he will do.

With ease in mind, the first year involved the crock-pot. Beans, rice, some veggies, a little ground meat of some sort. At first it was fine, then, after several months of this, our lovely little stew became a boring bowl of slow-cooker slop.

The crock-pot, although a wonderful tool, if you don’t know how to work it, like I clearly didn’t, will cause all of the flavors to clump together into a beany, ricey, filling, but not so tasty, and yes boring bowl of slop.

So, I put the crock away and started making basically the same stew on the stove. And, goodness, was it much better. All the flavors held their own, the veggies stayed crisp, the beans stayed firm. But, of course, it quickly became boring again because, well, I was stuck in a stew rut. I was in this little box of beans, rice, veggies and meat and I couldn’t find my way out. Inspiration eluded me and I started to get desperate. Why can’t I come up with something new? So frustrating for someone who LOVES to cook. Needless to say, we haven’t had stew for weeks. Maybe longer.

Fortunately, many of my blog post meals have provided us with enough leftovers to get us through a few days of lunch, but I need more than that. I need inspiration. And then it occurred to me, you are my inspiration. If I’m making something for my wonderful readers, then my creative food muse will surely nod her beautiful head and all sorts of wonderful things will happen.

Thus it begins; today’s post is the first of a possible series of one-pot meals.

French lentils, leeks, sausage, and smoky bits of bacon, delicious and perfect for these cold Portland days.

I can’t guarantee you’ll see one of these posts every week, but, well, we’ll let my muse decide that.


Smoky French Lentil Soup

Adapted from

What you’ll need~

1/2 cup wild rice

1/8-1/4 lb smoked bacon, sliced crosswise

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small, or one large leek, thinly sliced

1-2 cloves shallots, thinly sliced

1-2 small carrots, cut into small chunks

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

16 oz French green lentils

2 tsp Dijon mustard

Splash of red wine vinegar

1/2 cup or so diced tomatoes (I used Pomi Italian tomatoes in an aseptic box)

Salt and pepper to taste

3-4 fresh lamb sausages

1 cup dry sherry, or white wine (I had sherry on hand)

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, stir in 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice. Reduce heat and simmer covered 40-45 minutes or just until kernels puff open. Remove from heat and fluff rice with a fork.

In the meantime, cook bacon in a large saucepan for about 5 minutes. Add one tablespoon of olive oil, shallots, leeks, and carrots and cook until soft. About 10 minutes.

Add fresh herbs (you can tie them with a kitchen string to make them easier to retrieve) and stir in lentils with 5 1/2 cups of water. Simmer until the lentils are tender. About an hour.

Discard herbs and stir in mustard, vinegar, tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Add 1 cup of water, sherry and sausages and bring to boil in a 12” skillet over high heat. Cook turning the sausages occasionally until the liquid has evaporated. About 10 or so minutes.

Reduce heat to medium add remaining olive oil and continue to cook the sausages until they beautifully browned. About another five minutes or so.

Stir in cooked wild rice.

Slice the sausages and serve over warm lentils. Pair with a crisp Riesling.

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I have some friends that are on a special month-long diet that, among many wonderful things, such as eating more plant-based foods, less meat, and no processed foods, totally restricts the use of olive oil. The theory, I guess, is that you can get all the good fats you need from olives and nuts. Really? How many olives can you eat in a given day? How many olives would you possibly want to eat in a given day?

As we know, I am all for folks eating lots of veggies, less meat, and less processed foods. Heck, I think just eliminating processed foods from one’s diet will change everything. At least to start. But eliminating olive oil? I just can’t get behind it. In my opinion, and it’s just my opinion, that is going against more than seven thousand years of human history. Why do you think the Egyptians placed vessels of olive oil in tombs of royalty? Why did Homer call olive oil “liquid gold”? Why, after more than seven thousand years, are we still consuming olive oil in its purist most unrefined form? Not to mention that we are constantly learning of new health benefits? A list that continues to grow longer, I might add.

Instead of writing the longest post ever on the benefits of olive oil, I offer you a teaser and a link. The folks at The Global Gourmet wrote an excellent and eloquent article on the history and benefits of olive oil that I cannot, nor need to, improve on.

It begins, “Homer called it “liquid gold.” In ancient Greece, athletes ritually rubbed it all over their body. Its mystical glow illuminated history. Drops of it seeped into the bones of dead saints and martyrs through holes in their tombs. Olive oil has been more than mere food to the people’s of the Mediterranean: it has been medicinal, magical, an endless source of fascination and wonder and the fountain of great wealth and power. The olive tree, symbol of abundance, glory and peace, gave its leafy branches to crown the victorious in friendly games and bloody war, and the oil of its fruit has anointed the noblest of heads throughout history. Olive crowns and olive branches, emblems of benediction and purification, were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures: some were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.”

Do read the rest.

What I will give you is, as my friend Ryan, who has worked kitchens in New York, stomped grapes in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and who taught me how to cook a perfect sausage that is never dry, put it, “This cake is really good. You should be proud.” And that, my friends, is a compliment I will take.


Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary

Adapted from

What you’ll need~

4 lemons

2 1/3 cups of sugar

Butter for greasing

2 1/2 cups of flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp vanilla extract

4-5 eggs (I used 5 because my eggs were so small, but darn cute!)

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Coarse sea salt for garnish

Trim about 1/2 inch off the tops and bottoms of two lemons.

Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a 3-4 qt saucepan and add lemons. Let boil for 2-3 minutes remove from heat and drain.

Repeat process two more times with fresh water.

Place lemons, 1 cup of sugar and 4 cups of water in your saucepan over medium-high heat and cook for about 30 minutes. Stir often to help your sugar dissolve.

Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Heat oven to 350 and grease a 10” cake pan with butter. Dust with flour and line bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder baking soda and chopped rosemary. Set aside.

Remove cooled lemons from pan and cut in half. Using a sharp knife scrape the insides of the lemons out, discarding seeds. Place pulp in your food processor and pulse until it is a chunky purée. Add remaining sugar, flour mixture, vanilla and eggs and process until nicely blended. Add olive oil and process until combined. If you find the batter to be too thick (you want to be able to pour it into the pan) add a splash of water. About a 1/4 cup max.

Pour batter into your greased pan and bake for about 40 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through cooking time. Use a toothpick or fork to test center of cake. It should come out clean.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in pan.

As cake is cooling, whisk lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Remove cake from pan and place on a plate or cake platter. Using a pastry brush, brush glaze over cake. Garnish with coarse sea salt and serve to all of your admiring, olive oil eating friends:)

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It appears I was channeling Dr. Seuss when I was shopping for produce this week. I had no idea what to do with kohlrabi; I wasn’t even sure of what it was. But it was so neat looking that I had to pick it up. I still can’t tell you exactly what kohlrabi is. I was told it taste like broccoli and I read that it is in the turnip family. I found it smelled like strong cabbage and tasted like strong radish. Not my favorite, truth be told. I really wanted to like it, but that kind of radishy bite just doesn’t do it for me. To be honest, the only radishes I ever liked were gathered from the farmers market in Sanary-sur-Mer in Provence and served (by the sweetest French mom ever) raw after being soaked in water for several hours. They were creamy and crisp and had the flavor of the Mediterranean in November under their skins. It’s so easy to digress to memories of France….

The Chiogga beets, on the other hand, were fantastic. But, of course, I love beets in any form…except for that weird gelatinous stuff that comes out of a can.

If I ever try kohlrabi again I think I will soak it in cold water just like my friends mom did with her French radishes. I often do that with other bitter produce like radicchio and it always softens the bitterness without sacrificing flavor.

Purple Kohlrabi with Chiogga Beets and Watercress

You can peel the kohlrabi if you’d like. I just cut the thicker chunks off of the skin.

What you’ll need:

One bunch fresh watercress, washed

One Kohlrabi, thinly sliced (or cabbage, or radishes)

2-3 Beets

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut off the ends of the beets and place in foil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the beets, wrap with foil, and place in 350 oven for 30-45 minutes. You can cook them longer if you like them really soft.

In a large skillet warm several tablespoons of olive oil over medium and place thinly sliced kohlrabi in pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Fry to desired crispness turning occasionally.  I cooked them until the ends were just turning a dark brown.

Place cooked kohlrabi on several layers of paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

When beets are cooked remove from oven and open foil. Once they are cool enough to handle, use a paper towel to rub away their skins- not absolutely necessary unless the skins are thick or old.

Snip watercress leaves from stems and arrange on a plate or in a bowl.

Cut the beets in to quarters or chunks and sprinkle over watercress.

Cut the kohlrabi into bite sized pieces and sprinkle over watercress and beets.

Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Would love to hear what you all think of kohlrabi.

Off to Central Oregon this week so next post will be a bit late.


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I’ve been thinking about tomatoes ever since that touch of heat we got back in February. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about tomato tarts. As climate change and Northwest weather would have it, our summer arrived later than usual which means tomatoes are just now starting to show at the markets. However, I have to confess that my weakness for heirloom tomatoes means I’ve been buying tomatoes shipped up from California. I know, I know, but the way I look at it, the little organic farms in California need our support too, right?

I don’t know if any of you have ever eaten an heirloom tomato, if you haven’t, it will change everything. Heirlooms have an earthy, subtle flavor. They don’t offer that bright sweetness that you get with your standard tomatoes. They are meatier, to be sure, rustic and understated. It’s best not to doctor heirlooms up too much or you risk losing their soft flavor. Eat them as is or sliced with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of coarse sea salt sprinkled on top.

Heirloom Tomato & Pancetta Tart

This is my first time working with phyllo dough. I thought it would be much more difficult than it was. Working with phyllo is, however, time-consuming. So be prepared to do some gentle humming to yourself as you handle each sheet.

What you’ll need:

1 lb-about 20 sheets of phyllo dough. (Usually found in the freezer section near pie crust and the like)

4-5 large heirloom tomatoes or standard tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

Handful of pitted green olives, sliced

2-3 handfuls chopped pancetta (If you don’t have pancetta, bacon or chicken will do. Or make it vegetarian)

3-4 sprigs of rosemary

Ricotta Salata, or another easily crumbled cheese. Goat, blue, whatever turns you on

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Coarse sea salt to finish

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and brush a little olive oil on it.

Gently lay a sheet of phyllo dough on parchment paper and brush with olive oil.

Sprinkle sheet with a few chopped or torn rosemary leaves.

Continue placing each sheet of phyllo on top of the previous and brush each with olive oil. Sprinkle rosemary on every 5 sheets or so.

When finished with all of the sheets, place sliced tomatoes on phyllo, followed by shallots, pancetta and green olives.

Use a fork or your hands to crumble ricotta salata over tart.

Sprinkle whole or chopped rosemary leaves.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle with olive oil.

When all the ingredients are layered on your tart, gently fold up the sides and corners of the phyllo and give it a final brush of olive oil.

Place in pre-heated 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes then turn heat up to 425 for 10-15 minutes. Periodically check the dough for coloring. If it is dark golden and flakey then it is ready. If it is still fairly pale, then it needs a few more minutes.

Let cool and finish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut. Phyllo is super flakey and you may need a large plate (or the sink) to catch all of the flakes!

Serve with an arugula salad and a dry red.


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