Daily Archives: April 18, 2007

A Reading Issue: Alinea

My first experience with molecular gastronomy was like so many of life’s great initiations: by definition, the first time can only happen once. Even before I got to Chicago, my anticipation was matched by a twin disappointment, a lurking acknowledgement that once I had experienced Alinea, I could never eat like a virgin again.

The difficult thing about Alinea is that for someone like me, someone who’s relatively used to judging food, it’s a little weird to be dropped into a situation where I can no longer tell whether something looks or smells or tastes right because I have nothing to compare it to. How am I supposed to know if a horseradish-infused cocoa butter ping pong ball has been well executed?

Click here to read the rest . . .

Ping pong ball

Click here for my own slideshow, or here for Alinea’s online photo gallery.

Alinea on Urbanspoon

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Filed under commentary, review, travel

Cake for breakfast

This is the kind of cake I like: it took me 12 minutes to make from empty counter to cake in the oven (yes, I timed it). It’s simple and spongy and moist, and delicious at about 7:30 a.m. the next morning with a little homemade marmalade and yogurt heaped on top.

It’s a shame that olive oil isn’t a more popular baking ingredient here. Here’s a good guide to using it outside the frying pan.

Olive Oil Cake Slice

Recipe for Olive Oil-Vanilla Cake
Recipe 108 of 365

Because it’s so simple to make, this cake requires very little planning – and although it will last on the counter, covered with plastic wrap, for a few days, I think the flavor of the olive oil comes through best when it’s still warm. Feel free to add additional flavorings, like a touch of almond or orange oil.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

Vegetable or olive oil spray
1 cup whole milk
1 (3-inch) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeded
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease an 8” cake pan with the oil spray, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk and the seeds from the vanilla bean to a bare simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to steep.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together to blend. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until well blended. Add the warm milk to the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined. Fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Add the olive oil, and mix until just blended (it’s okay if a few streaks of oil remain).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden and just beginning to brown at the edges. Let cool 10 minutes, then transfer the cake to a platter: first invert the cake onto a cooling rack, then invert again onto the platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Filed under Cakes, recipe