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Liquid Gold: California Olive Oil

I'm in Sonoma, California, this week and olive oil is everywhere. Olive trees fill the hillsides and front yards, and the deep yellow oil appears on restaurant tables as a dipping sauce, in main courses, and even ice cream.

(Photo courtesy The Olive Press)

I'm in Sonoma, California, this week and olive oil is everywhere. Olive trees fill the hillsides and front yards, and the deep yellow oil appears on restaurant tables as a dipping sauce, in main courses, and even ice cream. One of my favorite spots is The Olive Press, an olive oil company with two tasting rooms in wine country (one in Sonoma, one in Napa). Founders Ed Stolman and Deborah Rodgers were the first to open an olive mill in Sonoma County in 1995, and they produce a wide variety of olive oils using 12 to 15 different types of olives: three types of pure extra-virgin oil (delicate, medium, and robust) as well as citrus oils like Meyer Lemon, Blood Orange, Clementine, and Lime that have the essence of citrus (and are amazing drizzled over fish or over steamed vegetables). If you're visiting wine country, don't miss a visit to one of their tasting rooms - the Sonoma tasting room offers a view of the olive pressing facility - but in the meantime try this moist, delicate Citrus Olive Oil Cake (I like to serve it with a dollop of fresh whipped cream). See the recipe.

The Olive Press Citrus Cake

  • Grated zest and juice of one lemon
  • Grated zest and juice of one orange
  • ¾ cup The Olive Press Blood Orange (or The Olive Press Meyer Lemon) Olive Oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups semolina
  • 1 cup ground almonds, tightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 teaspoon orange flower water
  • 1/4 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier
  • 1 round springform cake pan, 9-inch diameter, lightly oiled and lined with parchment.
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Reserve a little of the grated lemon and orange zest and put the remainder in a bowl with the oil, sugar, salt, orange and lemon juice, and eggs. Beat together with a whisk until light and fluffy and doubled in volume.
  3. Sieve the semolina and baking powder into a second bowl and add the ground almonds. Fold the almond essence and orange flower water into the egg mixture. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, fold together, but do not overmix. Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the reserved lemon and orange zest over the top.
  4. Bake near the top of the oven for 40-45 minutes or until pale gold at the edges and firm in the middle. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Drizzle the liqueur over the top. Push the cake out, still on the loose metal base, and let cool on a wire rack for another 10 minutes. Remove the base and paper. Serve in 8 to 12 wedges, warm or cooled. Do not refrigerate.

Serves 8-12