Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. And now we’re back to the grind (blah). In an effort to make our Monday morning a little less painful, let’s talk about tarts. And by “tarts” I don’t mean the fruit kind – which feel like dessert – I mean the cheese and veggie kind, which feel like something you can eat for/before dinner rather than having to wait until after.
I made this tart for the first time a few years ago, pre-blog. Pre-Instagram, even, which is tragic, because it makes for really pretty pictures (and we all know I love me some Instagram food pics). It’s the perfect thing to make if you have a pile of squash and/or zucchini laying around from an overly ambitious farmers market splurge, or puff pastry icing over in the back of your freezer. I had both, which is what inspired me to throw this together the other night.
Your zucchini/squash slices will look prettier if you slice them with a mandoline, but if you don’t have one just slice them as thin as possible by hand. I suspect you could also use a food processor with the slicing blade here, but your squash would have to be skinny enough to feed through the top so I’m not sure how it would work out (if you don’t have a mandoline and want to try it this way, let me know how it goes). You could always cut your squash in half lengthwise and it would still look gorgeous. Sometimes I go to a lot of effort (i.e. getting out my food processor, clearing off a space on the counter, cleaning it afterwards) to get out of even a little bit of work (slicing a zucchini). The advantage here, though, is that the squash will cook better the thinner it’s sliced.
The ricotta filling is simple and delicious, and can be tweaked any way you like. You could use more parmesan, or omit it all together. You could add the feta in here in addition to the topping, or in lieu of. Same with the parsley and lemon – leave it in or leave it out. I might have added the basil here too if I had thought of it (yum). I love the parsley and lemon, though, as they really brighten up the filling and work well the the zucchini and squash.
If you haven’t used puff pastry a lot before, this part might look a little daunting, but I promise you it’s really not. The best tip I can give you for working with puff pastry is to allow yourself enough time for it to defrost (either overnight in the fridge or for at least an hour on the counter – the package will give you more detailed instructions). The few times I’ve had issues with it, it’s been due to either pastry that’s still frozen, or pastry I let sit out too long that’s gotten gummy.
Once it’s (properly, and not overly) defrosted, simply unfold the square of pastry onto parchment and roll it into whatever shape you’d like (rectangle or bigger square). I find it’s easiest to roll it directly onto the parchment, but you can always roll it out on the counter and then slide it onto your cookie sheet if you think you can manage. Mine looks deformed regardless, but I’d like to think that had I not been rushing I could have rolled it into a perfect rectangle and it would have stayed that way.
Once you have your pastry rolled out into the shape you want, fold over the edges to form a crust and then “score” the pastry. You technically don’t have to fold over the edges, but I like to as it gives the tart more of a crust (since mine never turn out quite as pretty as they do in the video!). Poke holes over the inside crust with a fork, line with more parchment, and fill with pie weights to keep it from rising.
After twenty minutes in the oven, take the pastry out, remove the parchment and pie weights, and press down the inside crust if necessary (it will still rise a bit). Cover with the ricotta mixture and arrange your squash and zucchini slices on top. I like to alternate between the zucchini and summer squash, but you can do it any way you like. Twenty more minutes in the oven (longer if your squash slices are thicker or don’t look a little shriveled), then remove the tart and brush with butter (or olive oil), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for five minutes more, until toasty. Garnish with feta, parmesan, basil, and/or whatever else you like. I like to serve this as an appetizer, but it’s perfect with a salad as a light lunch or dinner too. It’s great warm or room temperature, but I love it cold.
Tarts, previously: Leek and Swiss Chard
One year ago: Black Bean and Couscous Salad
Summer Squash Tart
Serves 6 a side, 8-10 as an appetizer
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 small zucchini
2 small yellow squash
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Small handful chopped parsley
Zest of one small lemon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Small handful basil, torn or julienned
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a rectangle that will fit on your cookie sheet and sprinkle it with flour (you could use a silpat sheet here if you had one). Roll your pastry out on the floured parchment into a rectangle just smaller than the parchment. Fold the edges of the pastry over to form a thicker crust, and then with a small paring knife score a one-inch border within the crust (being careful to not cut through the pastry). Carefully transfer your pastry crust, on the parchment, onto the baking sheet. Use a fork to prick small holes all over the bottom of the pastry, line with another sheet of parchment paper, and cover with pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are puffed and golden brown. Remove the pastry from the oven and let cool. Remove pie weights and top parchment.
Thinly slice the zucchini and squash (ideally with a mandoline, but by hand is fine if you don’t have one).
In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, parsley, and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread mixture over the pastry shell and arrange the zucchini and squash slices over the top. Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove and brush the tart with the melted butter. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the crust and veggies are golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the feta cheese and additional parmesan.
Let tart cool at least 10-15 minutes. It can be served immediately after cooling, or later at room temperature or cold. Garnish with basil before serving.