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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


A tart and a torte

I remember once in high school my boyfriend's mother grilling me in her kitchen. I was hanging out, waiting for her son to finish eating dinner or something. "Can you cook?" She asked, while giving me a look. "I can follow a recipe," I told her. "That isn't what I asked," she said, "I asked you if you can cook."

Of course the answer to her question was no. No, I could not cook. I was only fourteen and hadn't much opportunity, need, or desire to prepare a meal fancier than mac-n-cheese or top ramen. I clearly had failed her test, and with one roll of her eyes and shrug of her shoulders she deemed me unfit and unable to adequately care for her deadbeat son.

I shudder to think what would have become of me if she had liked me.

It has taken me many years of cooking for myself and others to come to a point where I can answer that question in the affirmative. Yes, I can cook. Most nights I create two or three-dish meals out of whatever is in the refrigerator and cupboard. It's fun to turn two chicken breasts, a zucchini, half a bag of pasta, a can of tomatoes, a bag of frozen corn, and an onion into a meal even that cold-hearted old woman would have liked.

Yes, I can cook. Thanks for asking.


Tonight I deserted my husband and kids to attend a passion party. Passion parties (and yes, I've been to more than one) are always a little awkward at first. But the hostess quickly dropped the V word, the C word, the P word, and the D word, and before I knew it everybody was laughing and talking about lube like they were old friends.

I spent $157, but that's not my point. My point is that before I went to the passion party, I made a fantastic zucchini torte. I did follow a recipe to make it, but I also strayed from the recipe, which I never would have done when I was fourteen. Or even twenty four.

Attends passion parties. Makes a mean tort. I may not have been a catch at fourteen, but dammit, I sure am one now.


Zucchini Torte
Based on recipe from The Art of Mexican Cooking

Serve with a green salad, french bread with butter, and passion.

1/4 pound unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for baking dish
4 medium zucchini, trimmed and grated
1 cup flour
2/3 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup creme fraiche, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in top part of oven. Butter a 1-quart baking or souffle dish.

  2. Squeeze the grated zucchini dry in paper towels and set aside.

  3. Sift the flour with the baking power and salt and set aside.

  4. Beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the eggs one by one.

  5. Beat in the flour mixture, then stir in the zucchini and sugar.

  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake until the torte is firm and springy to the touch and golden on top, about 45 to 50 minutes.

  7. Serve from the dish, smothered with the creme fraiche, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

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