Happy New Year, Greece, Italy and a Birthday

Perhaps I'm a tad late with the New Year greeting. Perhaps not. Perhaps I'm a bit confused, you say? Perhaps. Here's what happened for me on the first day of 2022.

The olive oil cake that saved the day

First Day Conundrum. I set the table the night before to enjoy a traditional Southern New Year's Day lunch (which is called dinner in the South) of collards, cornbread and black-eyed peas with two friends, Tom and Marion. I am a big supporter of food traditions. Be it my Greek heritage or my husband's Southern culture, I wave the flag of traditions and rituals, especially with food. But there's room here for a bit of confusion, certainly. We have my husband's First Day food-eating and then we have my Greek tradition of eating a Vasilopita (Saint Basil's cake) on the first day of the year. See my dillema? To make it more difficult still, Marion's birthday was the following day and we wanted to have a cake in his honor, but Tom's gone completely gluten-free, so how to bake a cake?

One serving of the cake--see how much I love whipped cream?

Enter the Italian Olive Oil Cake. Oh, good heavens! How can an Italian cake save the day? Allow me to explain. First, it's a simple recipe that's quite similar to the one I use for Vasilopita. It's also a recipe that I always have on hand from Marcella Hazan's book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Then I just happened to have all ingredients on hand, including lemons for flavoring the cake with the aromatic zest. I was up early to bake the cake in time and I had gluten-free flour and baking soda in the pantry. I also had oranges and ruby red grapefruit that Tom had shared with us earlier in the week, so I made a citrus, honey, mint salad to serve with the cake, but most importantly, I also had heavy whipping cream! How can you not add whipped cream to the plate to balance everything perfectly?

Happy birthday new year, and happy birthday Marion. Southern first day food tradition preserved, and Greek Vasilopita tradition rescued.

The recipe for the cake can be found in this article, and my simple as One, Two, Three recipe for the citrus salad follows.

Citrus Mint & Honey Salad

Will keep for up to a week, although it's at its best for the first three days. Serve on its own along with scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, add it to your brunch options or serve it with this aromatic olive oil cake or over lemon pound cake.

2 Navel oranges, peeled and cut across into thick slices

1 large Ruby Red grapefruit, peeled and cut into supremes (Martha Stewart shows you how)

2-4 tablespoons local honey

Juice of one lime

Zest of one lime or 1/4 cup julienned mint (I used the mint)

Put the citrus into a glass bowl, top with the honey and then with the lime juice. What happens next, as you toss everything is that the lime thins out the honey and turns everything into a sweet and tart citrus honey sauce. Sprinkle with the lime zest or mint and toss one more time.

Citrus salad over lemon pound cake. No cream. Some people just don't love the whipped cream.


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