When he led the famous Seven Countries Study that inspired worldwide interest in the Mediterranean diet, Ancel Keys was astonished to see Cretans’ food swimming in olive oil. He decided that it was a good idea, and eventually much of the rest of the world caught on; although most countries still lag behind Greece in their olive oil consumption.
If you do not want a strong taste of olive oil, you can try a milder tasting extra virgin variety, such as one that has been stone-milled, and you may not want to use an ultra-healthy, bitter early harvest olive oil. Experiment with oils from different olives, locations, and harvest times; whether they are flavoured (with herbs or lemon, for example) or not; olive oils are as varied as wines.
Some prefer to save extra virgin olive oil for finishing cooked dishes, dipping bread, and making salad dressings. On the other hand, like the Greeks I know who get their olive oil from their family’s own olives, I use extra virgin olive oil for almost everything that needs added fat (with a few exceptions on holidays).
Thanks to Melanie Underwood, author and chef instructor at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City for this a favourite ‘dessert’ recipe based predominantly on olive oil: a unique white bean and herb olive oil cheesecake.
This savoury dish features a herbed olive oil garnish.
The versatility of this cheesecake is limitless. Chickpeas or black, pinto, or kidney beans will work wonderfully. Just remember the colour of cheesecake will change depending on which bean you choose. Don’t be tempted to leave off the herb oil; it enhances the flavour tremendously.
For more got to Lisa Radinovsky’s website www.greekliquidgold.com
WHITE BEAN AND HERB OLIVE OIL CHEESECAKE
For the crust
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1/2 cup (60 g) fine breadcrumbs
(or use any savoury crust)
For the white bean purée
420 g white beans
2 cloves garlic, crushed
60 g tahini
60 ml lemon juice
30 ml water
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the cheesecake
900 g cream cheese
four large eggs
For the herb oil
1 cup (250 ml) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium-low heat until just hot to the touch.
Remove from the heat and add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Allow to infuse for at least an hour. Strain out the garlic and herbs before using.
* Yield: 1 cup (250 ml) This oil, can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Warm slightly before serving.
1. To make the crust: Pour the oil into the bottom of a 25 cm springform pan. Using a pastry brush, oil the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the breadcrumbs in the bottom of the pan and rotate the pan around so that the bread crumbs cover the bottom and the sides completely. Set aside.
2. To make the white bean purée: In the bowl of a food processor add the white beans and garlic; process until smooth. Add the tahini, lemon juice, water, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. Remove from the bowl and set aside.
3. To make the cheesecake: Preheat the oven to 170°C. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese on low speed until softened, scraping down the sides of the bowl, underneath the paddle, and the paddle frequently with a rubber spatula, for about one minute.
4. Add the white bean purée and mix for about one minute, until completely smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix just until combined, about 10 seconds after each egg. Prepare the springform pan for a water bath. Place the springform pan in a large cake pan or a roasting pan (one that is around the same height or shorter than your springform pan). Pour the batter over the crust and level it with a small offset spatula. Place in the oven and pour almost boiling water into the roasting pan (it should come up halfway around the sides of the pan). Bake for about an hour, until the cheesecake is firm around the edges, but still jiggly in the centre (the jiggly part should be about the size of a 5c piece). Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the cheesecake from the water bath. Remove the foil from the sides of the pan. Gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the cheesecake from the sides. Allow to cool at room temperature. Place in the refrigerator for at least eight hours (this will help the cheesecake set completely).
5. To unmould the cheesecake, gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula around the edges of the pan. Release the latch on the side of the pan and then lift the ring straight up. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
6. To garnish: When ready to serve, plate each slice individually and pour a tablespoon of the herb oil on top of the cheesecake. You can also sprinkle over some mint or rosemary.