Make us your home page

Chocolate tart consolation for 'Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.'

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Tart comes together easily.

Photo by Alex Farnum from This Is a Cookbook

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Tart comes together easily.

BOOK: "Women crave relationships the way men crave orgasm," a good friend explains to Nate, who is brooding about the failure of his most recent affair. "Their whole being bends to its imperative. Men, in contrast, want relationships the way women want orgasm: sometimes, under the right circumstances." This wry observation puts Nate in a better mood, since it shifts responsibility from his own actions and places it on the nature of men and women. He returns to his disorderly apartment in Brooklyn rejuvenated, and glad to be alone in it again. He did not need to be in a relationship at the moment, he decides, although he soon finds himself in another.

Nate Piven, the title character of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., is a 30-something graduate of Harvard trying to establish himself as a writer. He has a respectable gig writing freelance book reviews for a website, and has finished a novel about a young man, much like himself, growing up with Romanian immigrant parents, much like his own. He has discovered that his stock on the sexual marketplace has increased handsomely in recent years, enabling him to flit from one beautiful young woman to another. The routine is always the same: infatuation followed by dissatisfaction, which may involve noticing the loose flesh on his beloved's upper arm, or fielding her frequent question, "What's wrong?" When he falls for Hannah, a bright, ambitious writer much like himself, Nate thinks he has found a soul mate, but the reader easily recognizes what's happening, even if Nate does not.

WHY READ? The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. offers what Sasha Weiss, literary editor for the New Yorker, succinctly describes as "a mercilessly clear view into a man's mind as he grows tired of a worthy woman." The author, a young woman named Adelle Waldman, proves to be a perceptive guide to Nate's mind. She puts his "clamorous conscience" on full display, allowing his desire for fairness and gallantry to deflect easy criticism of his behavior. For example, when Nate encounters an ex who is still fuming over the way he treated her after she had an abortion, he dismisses her with a breezy, "Look, Juliet, it was great to see you. And you do look great. But I've really got to go." Sounds bad, but Waldman eventually provides the backstory, in which the unwanted pregnancy resulted from a broken condom, and Nate sincerely tried to support Juliet through the ordeal, before disappearing from her life and moving on. After all, they just weren't right for each other, Nate tells himself, reasonably. Perhaps he was a jerk for appearing more enthusiastic about her at first than he eventually felt, but women should listen when he tells them he isn't looking for anything serious. As Chris Rock famously put it, "A man is basically as faithful as his options," and Nate has options, lots of them, and he's eager to exercise them.

MAKE IT: As Brooklyn solidifies its reputation as hipster heaven, good restaurants keep appearing, offering sumptuous delights that frequently find their way into cookbooks illustrated with provocative photos. One of those cookbooks, This Is a Cookbook, features recipes by young brothers Max Sussman (chef de cuisine at Roberta's in Brooklyn) and Eli Sussman (a line cook at Miles End Delicatessen a few miles away). They offer a recipe for flourless chocolate espresso tart that is easy, and accompanied by a photo that appropriately shows the dessert already mostly devoured.

Tom Valeo, special to the Times

Read & Feed is a monthly column in Taste that matches popular book club selections with food to serve at meetings. If you have suggestions or would like to share what your book club is cooking up, send an email to Put BOOK FOOD in the subject line.


Flourless Chocolate Espresso Tart

4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate

¾ cup sugar

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting

1 ½ tablespoons ground whole espresso beans or instant espresso

Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan.

In the top pan of a double boiler, melt the chocolate over simmering water. Scrape the melted chocolate into a large bowl, add the sugar and melted butter, and stir to mix well. Add the eggs and mix well. Sift in the cocoa powder and espresso and stir until the batter is smooth and well blended. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the top begins to form a fudgelike crust, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Dust with cocoa powder and top with whipped cream, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve right away.

Source: This Is a Cookbook by Max Sussman and Eli Sussman

Chocolate tart consolation for 'Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.' 09/30/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 30, 2013 12:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. From the food editor: Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders


    I decided my almond chicken obsession was becoming a bit much.

    Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  2. Taste test: Unsalted butters

    Taste Test

    Even good things should be tasted in moderation. That's why we divided the columns for our tasting of salted butters. Last week, our judges shared their favorites from the first eight of 16 varieties found at local grocery stores. Here, they review the other eight. We spread the butters on unsalted saltine crackers in …

  3. For Fourth of July, an American feast inspired by founding father Alexander Hamilton


    Are there a million things you haven't done? Is one of them throwing a patriotic party inspired by one of the founding fathers?

    Caribbean Pork With Potato Salad makes for the perfect Fourth of July meal.
  4. 'Baby Driver' literally turns heist movie genre on its ear, set to slick soundtrack


    Buckle up for Baby Driver, a movie so full throttle cool that you want to fist bump the screen. Style is the substance of Edgar Wright's inventive heist flick, a fresh, masterful synching of music and getaway mayhem, as if La La Land's traffic jam was moving, armed and dangerous.

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for heist arranger Doc (Kevin Spacey). Plagued by tinnitus, Baby tunes out his distracting “hum in the drum” by listening to music while he drives.
Sony Pictures
  5. Canada Day is coming to Tampa's Latin District


    TAMPA -- Ybor City is Tampa's Latin District, known for showcasing Cuban, Spanish and Italian cultures.

    Toronto native Bryan Grimsdale at the Seminole Heights Grocery Store. He is hosting a Canada Day celebration in Ybor City to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. The event held at The Dirty Shame will feature games, Canadian treats and Canadian music. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times