Friday, January 22, 2010

Matchmaking Heart-Healthy Chocolate & Olive Oil

By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet

You have entered chocolate land--a place where you can savor chocolate paired with olive oil in dishes for breakfast, main entrees, and desserts. While I sprinkled dozens of tried-and-true recipes through The Healing Powers of Chocolate, I also used more than a baker's dozen of recipes from Italian creative cookbook author Gemma Sanita Sciabica. You'll taste a strong Mediterranean flavor with her delectable recipes that take you to Italy without leaving your warm and homey kitchen...
I've chatted on the phone many times with Gemma. And yes, I've learned a lot from the veteran cook. The last time we talked I confessed that I'm hooked on using European style butter in some of my dishes because of its rich and creamy taste. Uh oh, I shouldn't have said that. Gemma reminded me that butter is sky high in cholesterol--not good for the ticker. After all, she is part of Nick Sciabica & Sons--a well-known olive oil company in California. What's more, she just penned Cooking with California Olive Oil: Recipes from the Heart for the Heart.
So, right now I'm using both butter and oil. But I promise to lose my love for the "bad" fat (but Julia Child and Paula Deen did and do it) and turn to heart healthy olive oil for my heart's sake as I preach in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil. To get a start on my promise, I'm sharing a recipe straight from Gemma's new book--and I will whip this choco-olive oil recipe this weekend as I hope foodies in cyberworld will, too. Yes, this easy to bake cake with good foods like dark chocolate and olive oil--both chock-full of compounds that promise to help lower your risk of developing heart disease.

Banana Cake With Chocolate Streusel
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2 tablespoons Sciabica's or Marsala Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped fine
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Stir above altogether in mixing bowl, set aside.
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Sciabica's or Marsala Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 egg
1-1/3 cup bananas, mashed (about 3)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon Danish pastry extract (Watkins)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch baking pan. Stir chocolate chips, brown sugar, walnuts, olive oil and cinnamon in a small bowl until well mixed, set streusel aside.
In mixing bowl combine dry ingredients, make well in center. Pour in buttermilk, olive oil, banana, egg, and flavoring, stir until just blended.
Spread half of batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with1/2 streusel. Repeat with remaining batter and streusel.
Bake cake about 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean from center. Cool cake in pan or on rack.
This cake make a hit, everyone wanted the recipe.
* * *
I believe Gemma. She has made me memorable chocolatey Sicilian Fig Cookies to Chocolate Biscotti (both recipes are in The Healing Powers of Chocolate). Okay Gemma. I vow to start using 1/3 European style butter and 2/3 olive oil. I dedicate this blog post to keeping heart healthy with a little help from Gemma, and, of course, olive oil and dark chocolate go together (like honey and chocolate)--a sweet match and a great lifetime pair for your heart as shown in the photo above: Valentine's Gift Pack.


  1. You must be in sync with my taste buds. I kid you not, just yesterday I was at Starbucks and had a sample taste of their banana, nut, chocolate chip cake and fell immediately in love. Can you substitute olive oil for butter in other baked goodies, as well?

    I know this question is off the wall but is there such a thing as basil-infused olive oil? If so, can you tell me who manufactures it or where it could be purchased? I have a salad in mind that includes mango with avocado(among other delicious ingredients).

  2. Hi Debbie,
    Yep, you can sub EVOO (the good stuff) for butter in all dishes. Sometimes, though, I have dabbled with butter (it does taste good)but oil is the way to go if you want to stay lean, heart healthy, and live longer. But EVOO should be used in moderation... Basil-infused olive oil? You betcha.