Monday, October 21, 2013

Lemon, Rosemary and Olive Oil Semolina Cake

A while ago I did a little bit of traveling around my hard drive, and visited directories that I have not been to for a long time. And that’s how I found myself looking at photos taken ten years ago with a three megapixel digital camera, a camera that by today’s standards even my six-year-old daughter would not use.

Man, these were some good photos.

I also found a bunch of old recipes and cooking notes from way back in close to forgotten past, when we could not afford king salmons and caviars of the world, and when chocolate cakes were made only for major celebrations.

Man, these for some good dishes.

I am now living under the sanctions imposed onto myself by myself.

I first banned all the fancy glass from my Canon 5D for a while, and resorted to photographing with a 50mm fixed lens priced at about $100. I then sanctioned the use of Photoshop. Photoshop is a lovely piece of software, but I can do a bit too much of lovely things in it, and it was time to take a brake. I then banned Hipstamatic and Instagram from the iPhone, because my mind got a bit hazy from all the lovely effects and filters. I cold not tell anymore if it is my photography that shines or it is Hipstamatic’s cherry shine flash effect. I am happy to report that for the last six months, I am Photoshop and Hipstamatic free, and my photography has not suffered. Much to the contrary...

Having re-established my artistic foundations, I then proceeded to take care of the gastronomic one. Therefore, for the moment, all extravagant ingredients, and all the culinary hoopla are not allowed in my kitchen. I have not made the twelve-layer cake or anything chocolate glazed in a long time, although Dr. V’s birthday is approaching and it is about to change, so stay tuned people. I stopped fantasizing about foie gras, grilled octopus and truffles. When in Whole Foods, I close my eyes whenever I walk by the imported cheese department. (Come to think about it, given the price of cheese at Whole Foods, one should always close ones eyes when in the cheese department.) In the spirit of full disclosure, I did make a decadent, twenty layer pumpkin lasagna a week ago, and my soul is now burning in hell for it. Not counting the lasagna experience, I am happy to report that for the last couple of weeks I am kitchen extravaganza free, and my cooking has not suffered. Much to the contrary...

Most importantly, on the hard drive trip down the memory line I found thousands of photos of all the precious moments with my loved ones. A great many of them involved food, the marketplaces, the coffee shops we went to, the foods we cooked, the breads we broke, the parties we partied. And that is how, when my friend from across the world finally came to visit, I found myself canceling the reservation to a Michelin mecca in New York, relinquishing the multi-course tasting extravaganza I had been chasing for months. The two us baked a cake, a really simple, poor man’s cake, and sitting on the floor of my apartment, wrapped in blankets, wearing pajamas, we had a slice of it, together with a glass of red wine that will never make it to Wine Spectator, but tasted good, man it tasted good. And we talked for hours. I am happy to report that our time together did not suffer from the lack of foie gras, Michelin stars and 2007 Barolo. Much to the contrary...

Lemon, Rosemary & Olive Oil Semolina Cake 
Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Olive-Oil Cake with Candied Orange

for the syrup

* 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
* 1 cup water
* 1/2 cup lemon juice (preferably Meyer lemons)
* zest of one lemon

for the cake 

* 1/2 cup olive oil
* 3/4 cup all purpose flour
* 3/4 cup semolina flour
* 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp granulated sugar
* 3 large eggs
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 cup whole milk yogurt
* 2-3 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
* zest of one lemon
* a pinch of pepper
* 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp all purpose flour, for greasing the pan
* 1 tbsp confectioners sugar, for dusting
* one rosemary sprig, for decoration (optional)


* 10" round cake pan

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the pan well with the butter and flour. Shake off the excess flour.

2. In a medium bowl combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper. In a mixer, beat 1/4 cup of sugar and olive oil. Beat in the egg yolks. When the eggs are combined, beat it the flour mixture. Beat in the yogurt and lemon zest.

3. Using clean, dry beaters, in a different bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in three tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter and combine gently. Transfer the batter into the bake pan and, if needed, smooth the top. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

4. When the cake is close to being done, prepare the lemon syrup. Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Place the sugar, water, lemon zest, and the remaining lemon juice in a saucepan, bring to a boil on high heat, reduce to medium heat and boil for 10-15 minutes, until the syrup reduces by half. Set aside, add the reserved lemon juice, and mix well.

5. Remove the cake from the oven. Pierce the hot cake all over with a skewer. Carefully remove the cake from the baking pan and place it on a plate or cake stand. Slowly drizzle the warm syrup all over the cake. Let the cake cool. Before serving, dust the cake with confectioners sugar and decorate with a sprig of rosemary.


  1. Such a nice cake. Olive oil, rosemary and lemon might sound strange at first, but man, is it good!
    Going to Michelin star restaurants can be a great reminder of how we actually tend to enjoy simpler things more. I have been to a Michelin star restaurant in New York once. It was an amazing experience, but as I walked out the door I somehow thought that having homemade cake with a friend is still far, far better than any fancy place... ;)

    And btw - yes, Whole Foods is crazy. But if you're ever in need of some truffle, Eataly sells a truffle paste that's pretty good for 9$ (considering you need the tiniest squeeze to have your kitchen smell like truffle the whole night).

    1. Valentina, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I cannot agree more :)

  2. Život u nekonzumerističkom društvu i zemlji koja je večito u krizi nekad ima svoje dobre strane:) Valjda nas to tera da izvlačimo maksimum iz svake namirnice koja se nudi. Al svakako mi ipak malo patimo za Whole Foods:)

    Bravo za incijativu, verujem da uopšte nije lako napraviti takav presek kada te okružuju sve te interesantne stvari.
    Kolač je odličan. Less is more:) To je i naša deviza.
    I taman da te pitam, jel semolina flour griz? Ako nije, jel makar slično?


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