Three Cheese Zucchini Tart


My Aunt Laura (better known as "T," as I mentioned here) is -- aside from being my favorite Aunt and a world class chocolate chip cookie maker -- also an expert gardener. When I was little, I remember being fascinated by the garden that lined the path leading to the front door of her house, a sort of sprawling, organized chaos of azaleas, snapdragons, and cosmos. My aunt knows everything there is to know about gardening, and even helped my brother, sister, and me to set up our own garden in the backyard one summer, teaching us how to dig flower beds, set up compost bins for fertilizer, and to protect our strawberry plants from hungry birds (just cover the plants with a bit of netting). That summer we managed to even produce a small watermelon from our tiny garden, which we were all quite proud of.
             Photos of T's garden, courtesy of T (Laura Lynch :))

This same summer, however, I realized that she was perhaps too good of a gardener. You see, the tomato, and zucchini plants she had been growing had flourished a bit too much, creating a supply of veggies that needed to be picked faster than my Aunt and cousin could eat them. When T came to visit, she would bring us bags of produce that, much like abandoned kittens, were looking for a good home. "Laura! We have enough tomatoes!!!" my mom would say. "But these are really good! They're from my garden! You can put them in a salad!!" my aunt would protest. You get the idea. I found these exchanges amusing, but had I been as wise at 7 as I am at 26, I would've realized that the bags of vegetables were not really a problem, but rather an opportunity for culinary creativity. The overload of summer zucchini -- a common problem for most who have gardens, not just my aunt, I later learned -- could have been easily solved by loaves of cinnamon-y zucchini bread, bowls of zucchini pancetta pasta, or elegant zucchini tarts, among many other things. Which brings us to today's recipe.  

I have called this dish a tart, but it could also be categorized as galette or a savory crostata -- a free form, open faced pie of sorts. It is simple but elegant, thinly sliced zucchini fanned out over three -- yes, three -- types of cheese, because the more cheese the better. The term opposites attract is definitely true here, as the soft spoken (if zucchini could talk, they'd be soft spoken) mild zucchini is complemented perfectly by the louder, tangier filling. The crust is I think one of the easiest and most delicious I've ever made, and is buttery and flaky thanks to the yogurt and lemon juice. I recommend you sprinkle this with basil to garnish, as I had planned to (in my excitement to make this recipe I forgot to buy it during my run to the supermarket). 


Feel free to experiment with different vegetables and cheeses for the filling as well -- this is quite a flexible recipe. I'm thinking of trying eggplant and tomato next, and perhaps butternut squash in the Winter. A little pesto stirred in to the filling would be good too. Enjoy!


THREE CHEESE ZUCCHINI TART

For the pastry**: 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled in the refrigerator again
1/4 cup full fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water


Filling: 
2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup soft goat cheese

Basil, to garnish


Glaze: 
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water.

To make the dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle the cubes of butter over the dough and using a pastry blender (or your fingertips, if you don't have one) cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter and flour mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid in until a dough begins to form; be careful to not overwork the dough. If it seems too wet, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and form into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. **You could of course use store bought pie crust, but this one is so easy to throw together (and tastes much better, in my opinion) that it'worth trying out the recipe here. 

Spread the zucchini out on to a layer or two of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes; gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, and goat cheese and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (though if you line it with parchment paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a plate later). Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange the zucchini on top of the cheese in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. 

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini (or just plain olive oil if you're not using the garlic). Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.Bake the tart until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the tart is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6. 


Adapted from www.smittenkitchen.com



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