One of my absolute favorite countries in the world is Italy. I love the Italian sense of style, the art and the people. But most of all, I love Italian food! I've traveled extensively throughout the north and south. From Milan and Florence to Portofino and Rome, my journeys were filled with beauty and culinary delights. Each part of Italy embraces its climate and terrain, resulting in a great variety of regional dishes that feature locally grown ingredients. The quality of Italian tomatoes, lemons, olives and fresh herbs are unparalleled. The subtle complexities of Italian wines are intoxicating. But perhaps, the most amazing food product from Italy is olive oil.
Each region creates varietals of this golden nectar that are uniquely its own. Colors range from amber to pale jade, while the subtle nuances of the delicate and ethereal flavor profiles of the mild olive oils greatly contrast with the intensity of the full-bodied and earthy ones. Verdant and peppery, luscious and fruity or herbal and grassy, each oil recalls its terroir and perfectly pairs with specific foods.
For this muffin recipe from Genoa, Italy I used a fruity extra virgin olive oil to accentuate the delicate flavors of oranges and almonds.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
4 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp whole milk
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Powdered sugar, for sifting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin.
Blend together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer beat the sugar, eggs, and zests in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vinegar and milk. Gradually beat in the oil. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Crush the almonds with your hands as you add them to the batter and stir until mixed. Fill the muffin tin almost to the top of the paper liners. Bake until golden on top and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins onto a platter and let cool for 5 more minutes. Sift powdered sugar over the muffins.