I first became enchanted with this Mediterranean-inspired citrus and olive oil pairing when I started cooking for myself in college. That's also when my obsession with cooking shows on the Food Network began. I loved watching Giada De Laurentiis - where I first learned about this flavor combination - and Rachel Ray. And I now attribute much of my comfort moving around in the kitchen to them. No matter what they were cooking, it was their passion, the creative, artistic nature of how they combined ingredients and flavors, and the little dance they did shifting back and forth between simmering sauces and chopping vegetables that appealed to me so much. There's something meditative and entrancing about the flow we get into moving about the kitchen.
I remember in graduate school, when my mind would be filled with statistical equations, SAS programming code, and the public health dilemma of the day, I'd look forward to going home to make a simple dinner. The movement, the presence, and the focus required in the kitchen cleared my mind and gave me immediate satisfaction. It was therapeutic. I'm not usually one to get lost in my work and lose track of time but this time spent in the kitchen was the exception.
But it's not always like this. The reality is that some days our time in the kitchen is nothing more than a chore. I'll be the first to admit that I often appreciate the end result of cooking much more than cooking itself.
So where's the balance? How do we bring more enjoyment and flow to this daily activity?
I don't know that I have the answer, but I have a few ideas. First, to find balance we must embrace imbalance and accept it as reality, on certain days. Secondly - though counterintuitive - in the long run it pays off to step outside of our cooking comfort zone and insert new recipes into the usuals we have on repeat. And specifically, cooking food with bright and bold flavors or using everyday ingredients in new combinations is key to getting excited in the kitchen and keeping our senses engaged. My recent Moroccan Vegetable and Meatball Soup is a good example for this. That's also why I love these orange olive oil muffins. They're simple and delicious, and the orange, almond, and olive oil pairing is playful and fun. Need I say more?
Orange + Almond Olive Oil Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Notes: These muffins use ground almonds and buckwheat flour, making them naturally gluten-free. If you don't have buckwheat flour you can replace it with another flour. Applesauce gives these muffins a very light, tender crumb. I've also made these without applesauce for a denser muffin similar to cornbread, which my husband likes. If you choose this denser version, err on the shorter cooking time.
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (100 gr) coconut sugar (or Muscovado - unrefined cane sugar - or brown sugar)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened applesauce (or plain yogurt)
- Zest 1 large orange
- 1 tsp. almond extract (or 1 Tbsp. Amaretto)
- 2 cups (200 gr) ground almonds/almond flour
- 1/2 cup (76 gr) buckwheat flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease or line 12 muffin cups
- Whisk together olive oil, sugar, eggs, applesauce, orange zest and almond extract in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir in almond flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
- Fill muffin cups halfway with batter.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, until risen and tops are lightly golden brown. (Mine cooked exactly 17 minutes)