Olive Oil Cakes With Spring Pea Puree
As you’ve probably already guessed, this isn’t a “quick, one-pot wonder”–this is a fussy recipe. That said, fussy doesn’t necessarily mean difficult. There are no tricky techniques or exotic ingredients involved, but the steps require a bit more care than simply tossing things about in a bowl. Don’t be intimidated. If you can bake cupcakes, you can make these lovely cakes. And while they aren’t the sort of thing to whip up when you’re pressed for time, they are the perfect little something for a special meal. In my case, it was just a quiet dinner in the yard with my hubby.
I often find my culinary inspiration outside the kitchen. This time I found it in the lobby of a 1960s office building where I was spending two days in an Illinois food service sanitation manager training course (FSSMC). On a study break and desperate for a distraction from pathogens and hand washing techniques, I reached for a copy of Time Out Chicago. As if by fate, I turned immediately to the page featuring these delightful olive oil cakes created by Crystal Chiang, the pastry chef at Owen & Engine in Chicago. Those cakes captured my heart and my imagination. Two days and a certification exam later, my husband Greg and I enjoyed my version alongside a simple arugula salad. Chiang doesn’t use Sriracha sauce in her recipe, but it really brightened up the flavors and was a nice complement to the sweetness of the dish. Fussy bits and all, the cakes still took less than an hour from start to finish.
Sometimes I like fussy. I like getting a bit lost in the details of preparing a dish that demands my full attention. It can be the perfect antidote for a lousy day. And as someone who admittedly says “I love you” with food, well, quick and easy isn’t always the most meaningful way for me to say it. Sometimes a little fussy says “I love you and you’re worth it.”
Olive Oil Cakes With Spring Pea Puree
1 cup spring peas
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup heavy cream
2 oz. Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese (Or substitute Parmesan or Manchego.)
2/3 cup sugar
½ cup olive oil
½ cup whole milk
Zest of ½ of lemon
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
12 sage leaves
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Make the pea puree: Blanch (about two minutes) or steam peas until tender. Strain the peas and place them in a blender or food processor along with 2 tablespoons of sugar and water. Puree and set aside. Add more water a tablespoon at a time if needed.
- Bake the cheese crisps: Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat. Thinly slice the cheese and cut into 1″ x 2″ rectangles. Place the cheese on the sheet pan and bake until golden brown, about 7-8 minutes.
- Make the olive-oil cakes: Lightly grease the cups of an oversized muffin pan or line with paper inserts. Whisk the egg and sugar together. Add the olive oil, milk and lemon zest, whisking until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Divide the batter among six muffin cups. Drop a slightly rounded tablespoon of pea puree into the center of each cake. Bake the cakes for 17–20 minutes, until golden brown and the center of the cake springs back when lightly pushed.
- Fry the sage: Heat the canola oil in a small, deep sauce pan. Fry sage leaves until crisp (a few seconds). Transfer the leaves to a paper towel–lined plate. Lightly season the leaves with salt.
- Make the pea cream: Combine the remaining pea puree with the heavy cream. Refrigerate until the cakes are ready for assembly.
- Assemble the cakes: Remove the warm cakes from the pan and carefully remove the paper wrapper if using. Spread the pea cream on a small plate. Turn the cake upside down on top of the cream. Garnish each cake with two fried sage leaves and a cheese crisp. Dot the serving plate with Sriracha sauce. Makes 6 cakes.