Semolina cake with pignoli, almonds, honey and olive oil

3/4 cup white flour
¼ cup pine nut flour (grind nuts yourself)
¼ cup (marcona) almond flour (grind nuts yourself)
3 tsp. baking powder
1 cup fine semolina
6 tbsp cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup (orange blossom) honey
3 eggs, separated (reserve whites)
½ tsp almond extract
zest of 1 (blood) orange
½ cup milk
pinch of salt
½ cup pine nuts, divided in half
½ cup (marcona) almonds, coarsely chopped or crushed, divided in half

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Grease bottom and sides of a 9 x 9 pan and set aside.
3. Mix the white flour, nut flours, semolina and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
4. Using a mixer, cream the butter with olive oil and honey until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, add egg yolks one by one. Continue mixing until a light yellow color. Add almond extract and orange zest.
5. Add the flour mixture ⅓ at a time alternating with the milk.
6. Add half the nuts (¼ cup pine nuts, ¼ cup almonds) to the batter. Save the other half for topping.
7. Clean the beaters well and beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, fold the egg whites in to the batter until just blended. Don't mix too much or you will "flatten" your egg whites.
8. Pour the batter in to an 8x8 square or round pan, level with a spatula, sprinkle with nuts and bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until you have a nice golden-brown color.

Serves: approximately 8 and freezes very well

The story:
I've always been fond of the ingredients that come together here - pine nuts (especially, especially pine nuts), almonds, honey, olive oil and semolina flour. Several years ago, I was invited to dinner at a neighbor's house, and the hostess served a deliciously dense, crumbly round cake studded with nuts (pistachios and pine nuts, maybe almonds too) toward the center. I described it to my mother, who made an early version of this cake. Years passed and we both ordered variations on olive oil cakes at several restaurants. Only subtly sweet, they have a lightness that makes them the perfect choice when you know you're full but can't resist dessert (which, for me, often has less to do with needing sweets than the desire to prolong a lovely evening of good company and conversation).

The winter before last, when I was almost nine months pregnant, I found myself desperately in need of ways to pass my time (having already tried cleaning my house from top to bottom and walking five miles to and from my favorite bookstore on a daily basis). I decided to perfect this recipe - finally bringing my conception of the ideal olive oil-pine nut-semolina-based cake to fruition. I baked it just a couple days before my son was born, and it stores (and freezes) perfectly, so we ate our first slices to celebrate his birth after bringing him home from the hospital.

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