Torta di Nada

Please note: my blog has moved in 2009.  You should view this post in its new location at:

I'm leaving tomorrow for a wonderful week in the Pacific Northwest, one of our favorite places. We've been going out there every summer for three years now and we really love it. Going to Seattle's Pike Place Market is a cook's dream. It's so frustrating, though, when you're just visiting and don't have access to a kitchen. The local fresh fish and the incredible produce are really something to see. Of course, I've already made reservations at a number of restaurants I want us to try. One of these that I'm so looking forward to is the highly acclaimed "Tilth" in Seattle. The restaurant is in a little house and is run by chef Maria Hines, who is totally committed to using organic, regional food.   I always know a place has to be good if they have a "forager" on staff! She is already doing some of her cooking using the "sous vide" method, which I'm anxious to sample.   Charlie Trotter, who is always on the cutting edge in the cooking world, has been cooking with this method for a while now. He estimates that 50% of the ingredients used in his dishes are cooked sous vide. Thomas Keller is coming out in the fall with a book about it called "Under Pressure". He's been using this method for years, also. I will post about it when I come back.

I wanted to post this recipe before I left, though, because Susan over at Food Blogga is hosting the July's Sugar High Friday blogging event, run by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess. The theme is "Berries".

This is based on a classic Tuscan grape cake, which traditionally is made during the grape harvest (duh) when grapes are plentiful. This cake is Jamie Oliver's version in his cookbook "Jamie's Italy", which is really just a fantastic cookbook. He really went all over Italy from the north down to Sicily to research this cookbook. The recipes are great and the photography is wonderful. He substitutes blueberries in this cake for the grapes and I have, too. My local farmer's market will have grapes later in the summer and I can't wait. But until then blueberries will do. I love this cake because it is not overly sweet - it's light and moist and just right.

And if you don't know, Jamie Oliver has a new show on the Food Network called "Jamie at Home". It's much better than the older Naked Chef series, I think. This one takes place basically right in his vegetable garden, where he picks things and then retreats into a garden shed to cook things up on a hot plate. It shows what you can do with great, fresh produce right out of the garden. He'll have a show just on onions, for instance, and show you several different ways to cook them. It's a fresh, simple way to cook.

Torta di Nada

butter and wax paper, for preparing the cake pan
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
a good pinch of kosher or sea salt
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 2 oranges
1 lb. 6 0z. fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line the base with waxed paper and set aside. Beat the eggs and sugar in a mixer for about 3 minutes, until thick and pale yellow, then add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla. Mix well, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon and orange zests and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid.

Stir about a quarter of your blueberries or grapes into the batter, spoon it into your cake pan and smooth out the top. Place the cake pan in the center of your oven and bake for 15 minutes then remove it from the oven and scatter the remaining blueberries over the top. Gently push them down into the cake then return it to the oven for another 30-40 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm. Put the pan on a rack to cool. After 10 minutes run a knife along the sides of the pan and turn out your cake.

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  1. The torta is absolutely gorgeous! Great choice for SHF!

  2. Hi Elaine,
    Wow! You got this post up before your trip? You're good! :)

    And thanks so much for telling me about Jamie's show. I didn't know, and I really like him. I'm checking it out right after I finish this comment. That torta looks splendid as do those perfectly plump blueberries.

    Have a fabulous trip! I've been to Seattle once and simply adored it. And if you find out, let me know how you get a job as a "forager." ;)

  3. Anonymous7/15/2008

    Stouffer's has something very similar to this; just a little sweeter perhaps. The advantage to their version is you can leave it on the countertop not refrigerated for months.

  4. Hi Elaine, Your Torta looks magnificent!! I WILL be making this!! Love the olive oil in it too! I love the Pacific Northwest, years ago I use to live in Oregon, and have been to Seattle several times, what a great place for a vacation. What about that coastline? Isn't it breathtaking!!

  5. That looks absolutely amazing!

  6. funny, i just made something like this and am posting on it as soon as i can... mine was in bundt form - but what a bundt it was.

    blueberry's - hooray...

    i've never been to seattle but a good friend of mine is moving there soon and i am definitely going to visit.

  7. I'm going to make this in the fall with grapes. Yum!

  8. Gorgeous torta! Did you make it to Tilth? It's my favorite restaurant in Seattle. I feel lucky to have it at my doorstep. You're right the Pacific Northwest is an absolute dream for food lovers. I hope you had a great trip!

  9. I made the same recipe recently and it is great. I really enjoyed it. Yours looks wonderful.

  10. This looks scrumptious! : )

  11. Anonymous4/15/2013

    I made this torta yesterday. It tastes amazing and looks beautiful. The only question I have is it says to bake for 40 mins., approximately. We cooked it for at least 1hr and 1/2. Every time we peeked at it the middle was jiggly and not cooked so we kept having to return it heat for 10 more mins, then 10 more mins., until it was done. It looks great, it tastes great, but I'm wondering about the consistency. Ours is good, but we cannot figure out why it took so long. Our oven is accurate. Did anyone else have this issue?