Unless you've been living in a cave somewhere, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on olive oil, has been all over the news lately. Olive oil has so many beneficial uses, from culinary to skin care, that it makes sense to reach for it whenever you can. Which is why I decided to come up with a recipe for olive oil biscotti, my favorite all-time cookie.
And why not use my favorite all-time extra virgin olive oil too -- Casale Sonnino olive oil. The olives are grown at a farm a little south of Rome, owned by friends of mine - George and Claire - who take the utmost care in the growing, harvesting and grinding, personally overseeing the operation every step of the way.
If you've done any reading about olive oil, you know that so much of what's sold as Italian extra virgin oil is really suspect - even well known brand names. The oil may be from other countries and may not even be olive oil at all. A lot has been written about the subject, including this article here.
Aside from the question of whether it's really olive oil, there's little way of knowing (assuming it is olive oil), how the olives and trees were grown and maintained, whether they were overly sprayed with pesticide days before picking, whether they were sitting around too long before milling, subject to bruising, whether all the olives came from Italy or whether the oil in the bottle really was the first cold pressing.
The olives from the 700 trees on George and Claire's property are hand picked by a small group of local women in the traditional manner. Nets are strung below the olive trees to capture any falling fruit before they hit the ground to prevent bruising. The olives are transported within days to a local mill, where George supervises the pressing from start to finish. I can always be sure that their extra virgin olive oil is the first cold pressing from estate grown olives when I buy Casale Sonnino olive oil. Like grapes, olives for oil come in many varieties. Casale Sonnino olive oil uses Broccanica, Rosciola, Venina and the Tuscan Leccino.
There's no doubt that you're getting the finest quality possible and it is evident in the taste. If you'd like to taste it too, it's available by mail order here in the states. Contact Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 516-767-7188. They also rent out the beautiful 18th century villa on the property to vacationers, and you can get more information by clicking here.
But back to the cookies. Casale Sonnino's olive oil is mild, which is perfect for these cookies. You wouldn't want to use an oil with an overpowering strong flavor in a delicate cookie.
After you've mixed the batter, shape into logs.
Slice them after they come out of the oven and bake them a second time until they're golden. They're delicious plain just like this.
Or dress them up with a drizzle of white icing.
Or chocolate if you prefer.
Wouldn't you love to unwrap a little hostess gift like this? Or sit down to a cup of coffee and a few biscotti yourself? Well then, what are you waiting for?
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 cup pistachios, toasted in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest of three oranges
1 T. Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqueur
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine flour, baking power and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, place the eggs, sugar, olive oil, orange zest and Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur and mix for one minute until well blended. Add the flour mixture and pistachios and mix until all the ingredients are well blended.
Shape into "logs" on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 35 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and slice into individual biscotti. Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees and place the biscotti back on the parchment-lined baking sheet for another 15 minutes, flipping once. Bake until golden, and keep a close eye on them the last five minutes to make sure they don't burn.
Optional: Cool, then glaze and sprinkle with grated orange peel.
white glaze: Start with a little confectioner's sugar - about 1 cup. Then add in a small amount of orange juice (a couple of tablespoons) until you have a consistency that's think enough to drizzle. Sprinkle with grated orange peel.
chocolate glaze: Melt some chocolate chips over a double boiler. While warm, drizzle over the cookies. Sprinkle with orange peel.