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Ruth Lafler | May 12, 200803:02 PM     70

The Genova Delicatessen in Oakland, CA makes something they call "torta" -- similar to a frittata but somewhat denser. They make two versions, one with zucchini and one with artichoke hearts, and they have passionate fans among East Bay hounds. I mentioned that my mother for many years tried to duplicate the recipe, and people asked me to post her results, so here goes:

1 lb. zucchini
1 medium onion, chopped
3 eggs
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Wash and trim zucchini; steam in hot salted water for 10 minutes; drain and cool. Saute onion in olive oil. Dice the cooked zucchini. Beat eggs and mix in bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and seasonings. Add zucchini and onions and mix well. Turn into greased 8x8 baking dish and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Cool well.

My mom was never very happy with this recipe -- although this was the result of some experimentation and tweaking, it didn't come close enough to the original. Looking at this recipe (which I've never made myself), 30+ years later, I see some possible explanations. For one thing, 30 years ago mom had never heard of EVOO, and parmesan was something that came in a green can. The finished product tends to leave oily spots on things, so I think there should be more olive oil, and that the zucchini is sauteed with the onions (you know how zucchini soaks up oil!). I'm thinking there should be some oregano in there, and that it probably makes a difference what kind of breadcrumbs you use -- mom probably used canned, but Genova probably uses fresh, in addition to EVOO and real parmesan. I assume (although it may be dangerous to do so) that the artichoke version is the same base, but with canned artichoke hearts.

I'm going to try this tonight and report back. Meanwhile, if anyone is familiar with this dish, please add your comments. Maybe the chowhound collective mind can solve the challenge that has obsessed many of us for years!

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