Olivia Joy David relishes creating dishes that reflect her heritage and sense of adventure.
It might be said that Olivia Joy David’s “cooking truth” comes from her Italian heritage, love of gardening, the inspirations she gets through the arts and the fact that she is a self-described “nervous hostess.”
Though born in Casper, Wyoming, David grew up on a small farm in the San Francisco Bay area of California.
“I had a close family and spent lots of time with my Italian grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins,” she offers. “Because I grew up close to San Francisco, I was blessed to have a rich cultural life—ballet, symphony, theater, Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum— and to the northwest was the Napa Valley and that whole wine and culinary experience.”
During the summer between her junior and senior years of high school, she toured Greece and Italy and says, “That began my love of travel and art and architecture.”
While earning a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), she spent a summer traveling in Europe with her parents and another summer in Nigeria with her mother, who was on a medical team. After she graduated, David stayed in hostels “around Europe for a year visiting all the cities and museums and artists I had learned about at UCSB.”
She “identifies as Italian” because she knows the most history about her mother’s parents.
“They come from Northern Italy, near Bolzano, in the Dolomite Mountains. Luckily, I have traveled there to see the villages where my grandparents were born,” she shares. “I have cousins who own a hotel/spa in Trentino and stayed there with my mother in 2012. They made the best risotto I have ever tasted
“My aunts were amazing cooks,” she adds. “My mother worked—one of the few women I knew who worked outside the home—and made a lot of casseroles. I was always in charge of the salad, which I still love to make today.”
In 2007, her husband, Jeff, was transferred to Washington, D.C., for his job with IHP Capital Partners, a residential investment firm. They moved to Ocala in 2010 to manage what is now the Ocala Preserve community. She became involved with the local arts community and began to volunteer with the Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA).
Today, the Davids, who have one son who lives in Georgia, reside in a home high atop a hill west of Ocala, with a backyard vista of scenic horse farms. The airy abode is filled with works of art and is shared with Spinone Italiano canines Latte and Luca.
“My kitchen is filled with artwork by Ocala artists—David D’Alessandris, Carol Gallion, Cindy Verner, Milly Scheffer, Kate Carney, Kelly Rysavy, Jordan Shapot, Linda Blackburn, Rich Schleicher, Carlynne Hershberger and Kay Deuben,” she shares. “The art makes me happy and though it is not my cooking inspiration, it is certainly my creative inspiration.”
Many of her meals, such as BBQ Salmon with Leeks and Tomatoes, with sides of coleslaw and a green salad, incorporate fresh veggies, fruits and herbs from her garden.
“I have always liked having a nice yard, flowers and fresh herbs. I am a seat-of-the-pants gardener as well as a seat-of-the-pants cook,” she says with a laugh. “I grow what I have success with. This year I had lots of squash, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, greens, onions, salad flowers (nasturtiums), bell peppers and herbs.”
She says she enjoys cooking “simple food for good friends.”
“I love making soups and stews in the winter to share with neighbors,” she offers. “I have been doing some sheet pan recipes lately, such as tofu with roasted veggies, and chicken with asparagus, lemons and new potatoes. And I have the best salad recipe ever—some kind of fresh greens, one kind of nuts, one kind of cheese and one kind of dried fruit.”
Her advice for a young host or hostess who also might be a bit nervous would be to “keep it simple.”
“Make something you have been successful making before and are proud to serve,” she urges. “Your guests are there to enjoy your company.” OS
BBQ Salmon with Leeks and Tomatoes
One whole salmon filet or several smaller portions
2 to 3 leeks
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons chicken stock or butter
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon white vermouth
1 pinch of saffron
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup orange juice
1 or two onions, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped ginger
In a large pan, make a bed of the onion slices. › Place the salmon on top. › Mix the soy sauce, orange juice, garlic and ginger and pour over the fish. › Cover and refrigerate overnight.
To cook, pre-heat your grill to 300 degrees. › Coat the inside of a grilling basket with oil. › Remove the salmon from the marinade and place in the basket. › Grill to preferred doneness.
Meanwhile, heat the butter or chicken stock in a large skillet and add the vermouth and capers. › Slice the leeks into rounds and let simmer in the pan. › Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to the pan and cook until the skin begins to “pop.” › Add the saffron and stir. › Plate the salmon and dress with the leeks and tomatoes mixture.
2 to 3 cups of chopped cabbage
½ cup crushed pineapple
½ cup raisins
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
(You can add fresh garden veggies, such as bell pepper, as desired.)
Bottled coleslaw dressing
Combine cabbage, pineapple, raisins, and poppy seeds in a large bowl. › Pour in the dressing and mix well. › Refrigerate until ready to serve.
8 cups of mixed salad greens
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup crumbled bleu cheese
½ cup of chopped walnuts
Bottled raspberry and walnut vinaigrette dressing
In a large bowl, layer the greens, cherries, cheese and walnuts. ›
Dress with vinaigrette and mix well.