As I was waiting at Charles de Gaulle Airport last spring for my flight back home, I picked up a copy of Elle à Table (a handsome French food magazine with beautiful photos and excellent recipes) and happened about an article on Youssef Gardam, written by Clotilde Dusoulier from Chocolate & Zucchini .
Gardam is the young French entrepreneur of Moroccan descent credited with having propelled Moroccan olive oil onto the world culinary stage. His oils can be found in the best European grocery stores under the label Les Terroirs de Volubilis and, from what I understand, are also now available in the United States.
He produces three different olive oils: the fruité vert, made with green olives (sharp and spicy, delicious with salads or fish), the fruité mûr, made with olives picked when they turn purple (less pungent, perfect on pasta or vegetables) and the fruité noir, made with very ripe olives (very fragrant, ideal for pastry and delicate dishes). I would love to try all three but I have yet to see any of them in the grocery stores around where I live.
So for now I use Trader Joe's Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the one that's sold with a little pour spout attached to the neck of the bottle). I love its flavor and consistency. I am sure it is not in the league of Gardam's oils but, hey, we like it and we don't need to mortgage the house to enjoy it.
Clotilde came up with a recipe which uses either fruité mûr or fruité noir. I made it with TJ's oil and the cookies (also flavored with white wine and orange zest) turned out excellent. At least so said the Man who devoured them with gusto, feeling especially virtuous because they didn't contain any butter or egg.
They were certainly flavorful with just the right amount of crunchiness but since I am not a huge fan of anything sweet, I decided to develop a recipe for spicy savory cookies we would both enjoy with "apéritif" (the French word for a drink before lunch or dinner). I pretty much followed Clotilde's recipe but skipped the sugar and added salt, freshly grated parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and smoked Spanish paprika. The resulting "cookies" are just spicy enough with a hint of smokiness (I'm using the word "cookie" for lack of a better one: in French, I would call them "croquants" as Clotilde does because they are deliciously crunchy when you bite into them or "sablés", the French word for shortbread, because they crumble very nicely in the mouth). They go very well with pre-dinner drinks. But I must warn you: they are quite addictive. It is hard to keep from reaching for another one... Ingredients: (I can't tell you for how many cookies because I forgot to count them. But I had enough for two half-sheet pans and each pan must have contained 25, give or take. Clotilde makes them twice as thick and gets 25, so that sounds about right) 160 g unbleached all-purpose flour 90 g high-extraction flour (Clotilde uses "farine bise" a grade of flour which doesn't exist in this country. I used La Milanaise's organic sifted bread flour which contains more bran and germ than "farine bise" and is therefore more nutritious. It is hard to find here however. If you don't have access to it or another high-extraction flour, replace the 90 g high-extraction flour by 55 g all-purpose flour and 35 g whole wheat flour. You might also try substituting it by 90 g whole-wheat pastry flour but I can't guarantee the result as I haven't tested it. Let me know if you give it a shot) 5 g aluminum-free baking powder 80 g freshly grated aged Parmesan cheese 80 g dry white wine 80 g fruity extra-virgin olive oil 5 g smoked Spanish paprika 1 g cracked black pepper 4 g salt Method:
- Pre-heat the oven to 356ºF/180º C and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet (my oven is small and I used two half-sheet pans)
- In a bowl, mix the flours, the baking powder, the grated Parmesan cheese, the salt and the spices
- Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil and the wine
- Mix with a fork then knead briefly until the dough is smooth (don't overknead)
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 0.5 cm-/0.2 inch disk (Clotilde rolls her dough out to a 2 cm-thickness, i.e. almost 0.8 inch, but I prefer thinner cookies)
- With a sharp knife, cut out squares or diamonds 3 cm (1.2 inch) wide and place them on the prepared sheet-pans, taking care to leave some space between them
- Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 300ºF/150ºC and bake another 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden
- Repeat with the other batch as necessary
- Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!