Why You Should Put Olive Oil in Your Cookies

October  9, 2015

A letter, a reminder to have an open mind, and a reason to put olive oil in your dessert.

Dear Dash,

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You know when you looked me up and down last week and said Mom. What happened to your face. Is that lipstick? And then you laid into me about my chipped black fingernail polish and faux-ripped black jeans and you said I don’t recognize you, mom. And then you took on my double-chocolate olive oil cookies: Butter is better. Olive oil is for salad dressings. Why would you do that to a cookie?

Well, dude, give me a break. I’m in a new phase. 

Do you know about the sympathetic nervous system? It’s what kicks in when you’re trying to run away from lions, tigers, and bears. For me, the early parenting years felt like one long fight-or-flight lockdown. I was all revved up to kill. But it turns out there was no monster to destroy.

Picking up the phone made my heart race. I said no to walks with friends. No to dinner parties. My external world needed to be predictable. Regulated blandness kept me safe. I needed cinnamon toast with butter, the Goo Goo Dolls, and lots of Grey’s Anatomy.

I did what I was supposed to do: I pinned you down as meltdowns unfolded into tantrums. I caught you before you fell out of windows, grabbed you as you climbed over fences, prevented the ingestion of bleach and peanuts and flame retardants. 

I was scared you would die. I was scared I would mess you up. I was scared that I would never ever fall in love with you.

But I was wrong. You did what you were supposed to do: You learned to walk, to talk, to jump down the stairs ten at at time. 

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep and I found you diagonally draped across my legs, I didn’t nudge you awake and away, instead, I held your strong bony shoulder for an hour-and-a-half and I swear I could feel your skin growing under mine. And I felt safe. 

I have been watching you. The way you struggle and stumble and fly right back up to try it all again. You are the reason I am trying to be brave. Now you are teaching me.

Just pretty please try not to shut down and judge. And have one bite of a salted double-chocolate olive oil cookie. Come on. You know you want to. 


Salted Double-Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies

Makes 21 cookies

2/3 cup non-alkalized unsweetened cocoa

2/3 all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (mild)

2 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup dark or light brown sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

1 to 2 tablespoons Maldon sea salt (to sprinkle on top before baking)

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here. 

Photos by Phyllis Grant 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • gardeningal
  • Elena Paravantes
    Elena Paravantes
  • quinn
  • Robert
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


gardeningal October 18, 2015
Yeah, me too. My twin "Dash(es)" are now 25, and teaching me while they still do everything together. Love the recipes and the life love stories. Keep 'em coming....when you have the time! ; ) October 12, 2015
My "Dash" is 22 and 13 inches taller than me. Your writing grabs me by the heart! I don't care if you leave out the eggs.
Denise D. October 12, 2015
I 'heart'you
Elena P. October 12, 2015
I will definitely try this recipe! I'm a Greek-American Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and here in Greece we have been using olive oil in our desserts for years, it's part of our traditional diet.
quinn October 11, 2015
um, cute? but doesn't tell us "Why You Should Put Olive Oil in Your Cookies"
CzechMate October 11, 2015
Yes! thank you! I was like wtf is this intro?
Robert October 10, 2015
The egg is not listed in the recipe! With all due respect, all the warm-hearted anecdotes in the world aren't going to mean much if you leave an ingredient out of the recipe.
Denise D. October 11, 2015
It is listed though when you click on to see the full recipe
Kenzi W. October 12, 2015
It's listed in the post, as well!
Betty G. October 10, 2015
Phyllis, post especially touched my heart and made my eyes leak. Will our sons ever fully realize the magnitude of our love and our fears? Bettyloug
Di T. October 10, 2015
I love this ethos. I have been sacrilegiously using olive oil in everything recently, muffins, brownies, cakes, everything. And the strong stuff too. I'm on board.
Denise D. October 9, 2015
I'm in awe. You're writing is amazing. My "Dash" is fifteen and this is so like my life story with him. The diagonal thing across the bed kills me. My Ian's shoulders slay me. While reading this I had tears....for the boys, but more for the mama bears who do everything to make our boys happy while knowing just how important(and f-ing hard it is with this sophisticated generation) to help them be open minded, polite, self sufficient and kind.