Recipes : Sides
Not to be confused with the other kind of tortas, (tortes translates to tortas in Spanish…) Mexico’s favorite sandwich made with a crispy bread roll adapted from the baguette; tortes are a cross between a fluffy and moist bread, a savory pudding, and now that I think of it, also a souffle.
Although there are quite a few variations, tortes have a few things in common. For one thing, they are easy to prepare. Next, they are versatile since they can be a side to both dry or saucy entrees, they can become the main dish accompanied by a salad and they can travel solo in grand style. What’s more, and crucial around home, they help eager parents deceive picky eaters who don’t like vegetables that much.
Though in Mexico the zucchini that is mostly used is the calabacita italiana, which translates to italian zucchini, the one I find most often in the US is the larger, dark green zucchini. The first is smaller, a bit rounder, with a lighter green color speckled with cream. The second tends to be longer and with a deeper, darker and more uniform green color. Both work just as well, but the first tends to be a bit milder and sweeter than the latter.
There are countless ways in which calabacitas, or different kinds of zucchinis, are used. It may just be one of the most used vegetables in Mexican cooking. And all of its parts are used: the vegetable, the shoots (especially in tasty soups) and the seeds.
(While my youngest son loves to mash away with the molcajete, or anything else, my oldest has graduated to use the grater, which he does with worldly pride.)
1 1/2 pound zucchini (about 4 cups), ends trimmed, grated and strained
1/4 pound plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup sugar
Powdered sugar, optional
Creme fraiche or Mexican style cream, seasoned with salt and pepper, optional
Butter a 9x12 baking pan. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.
Trim the ends off the zucchini and grate. Place in a colander and strain the juice either pushing with your hands or the back of a spoon, set aside.
In a bowl combine the rice flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a mixer, beat the butter at medium high speed for a couple minutes until creamy. Reduce the speed to low and incorporate the eggs one by one. After each egg add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, keep beating until thoroughly mixed. Lastly, add the strained zucchini and the sugar. Beat for another minute until the batter is well mixed and pour onto greased baking dish.
Place into the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until torte starts to show a nice golden tan and a toothpick comes out a bit moist but not wet. Remove from the oven, cut in squares and serve.
It can be eaten with sprinkled powdered sugar on top for a nice sweet spin, or with spoonfuls of creme fraiche or Mexican style cream seasoned with salt and pepper. Can be eaten hot, warm or cold. If there is any left, it can be kept covered outside of the refrigerator for a couple days.
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