Cooking Advice

The Readable Feast

Up-and-coming literary festival The Readable Feast, scheduled for June 23 in Boston, celebrates the best food writing and cookbooks around.

By Amy Traverso

Apr 04 2017


Evan Mallet’s Olive Oil Cake with Prune Jam

Photo Credit : Copyright © 2016 by Enna Grazier
New England’s rich literary tradition has long extended to the world of food writing and cookbooks. The first American cookbook was published in Hartford, Connecticut, by Hudson & Goodwin in 1796. Written by Amelia Simmons, American Cookery (subtitle: “Or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life”) was the first printed guide to an evolving American cuisine, still heavily informed by British traditions but shaped by the agricultural bounty of North America. In subsequent decades, we had Boston’s Lydia Maria Child (The American Frugal Housewife), Fannie Farmer, and Margaret Rudkin (of the very real Pepperidge Farm in Fairfield, Connecticut), and by the time Julia Child was reviewing final drafts of Mastering the Art of French Cooking from her Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen in 1961, she was part of a fully developed culinary/literary ecosystem.
Evan Mallet's Olive Oil Cake with Prune Jam
Evan Mallet’s Olive Oil Cake with Prune Jam
Photo Credit : Copyright © 2016 by Enna Grazier
Recognizing the local riches around them, food writers and event organizers Louisa Kasdon and Annie Copps (whom many readers will remember as Yankees former food editor) launched a food writing and cookbook festival called The Readable Feast in 2016. The annual awards ceremony will take place this year on June 23 at the Boston Public Library, and Yankee is proud to be a media sponsor of the event. “We launched The Readable Feast to showcase the incredible culinary and literary talent of New England,” Kasdon says. “We wanted to give a boost, a ‘neighborhood thank-you,’ to the authors who produce books that make us so proud. New England is truly a remarkable place to read and to write.” One such author is Evan Mallett, the chef-owner of Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Mallett’s book, fittingly named Black TrumpetA Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016), captures the hyperlocal kitchen wizardry that has earned him multiple James Beard nominations and the devotion of the food-conscious Seacoast community. The recipes range from the simple (fried almonds, olives, and garlic; English muffins) to the baroque (red quinoa coconut milk pudding with rhubarb compote, hibiscus whip, and kata’ifi). Most of all, we love Mallett’s recognition that New England really has eight distinct seasons (early and late winter, early and late spring, etc.), not four. Here we present a delicious olive oil cake, pictured above. Mallett serves it with house-made prune jam and whipped ricotta, but whipped cream is a fine accompaniment.

Black Trumpet’s Olive Oil Cake

From the book: “This simple cake, created by Lauren Crosby, is one of my favorites from the Black Trumpet archives. And it is by far the best olive oil cake I have tried. I like to tell our guests that the use of olive oil in place of animal fat somehow makes this recipe healthier (ha!). I also love that this dessert can be enjoyed at any time of the day, especially for breakfast, always in the company of a shot of good espresso.”Ingredients 1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (from 3 or 4 oranges) 2 1/2 cups (570 g) granulated sugar, divided 2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3 large eggs 1 1/4 cups (295 ml) whole milk 1/4 cup (60 ml) brandy 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) olive oil Zest of 1 lemon 2 teaspoons ground anise seed 1 teaspoon table salt Method Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Combine orange juice and ½ cup of the sugar in a small pan over medium heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a medium bowl and set aside. Whip the eggs in a stand mixer (using a whisk attachment) on medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups sugar and whip on medium speed until dissolved, about 3 minutes. Pour ¼ cup of the cooled orange syrup, along with the milk, brandy, and olive oil, into the egg-and-sugar mixture; whip on low speed until incorporated. Add the zest, anise seed, and salt, and mix until combined. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the batter, mixing until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake on the middle shelf for about 1¼ hours, until the cake is dark golden brown, it’s set in the middle, and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool to room temperature, and brush with the remaining orange syrup before slicing. Serve alone or with jam and whipped cream. Yields 12 servings.