At first it’s so cute. The zucchini flowers bud and you can practically taste the stuffed blossoms you are going to make, even though they take so much time to stuff and batter and fry—it’s worth it for that taste-of-summer burst you get in your mouth, even if they burn your tongue because you couldn’t wait to let them cool properly. Then, the mini zucchinni appear like wee cherubic willies (yes, willies). You pad out in your pajamas every morning to check their progress and it feels as though winter was a bad dream that will never again recur.
But shortly, you will be thinking, “what the hell am I going to do with all these zucchinni?” In certain neighborhoods you already have to be careful to lock your car when you run into the post office or return to find your back seat filled with zucchini by an overwhelmed gardener desperate to find her crop a home plate. So, if you are up to your ears in breads, muffins and casseroles greenly laced with the stuff and have already had enough of it grilled-marked to make you see lines everywhere, even with your eyes closed, then this lovely tart may be just the remedy for your zuke overload. Even if the closest you are coming to the work of harvesting zucchini is breaking a sweat trying to find the end that opens on the plastic bags in the produce section of your supermarket, you can enjoy this seasonal abundance all the same. Many stores and farmers markets are surely carrying locally-grown zukes and it’s your chance to live and eat locally and seasonally, for now and the next few glorious months.
If you haven’t yet made my almond cheese crackers, here is a chance to try this addictive dough as an entire crust, (so fast and easy…you can’t ruin it, overwork it, no refrigerating to wait for the gluten to relax),
pressing it out with your fingertips into every little scallop of the pan until it’s evenly filled.
Then, blind baking it (no wieghts needed) for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
All that’s left to do to is fill with the cheeses and arrange the seasoned zucchini coins in a circle pattern until it completed covered.
I know this tart would be amazing with a standard tart dough, or as a rustic gallette (no tart pan, just arrange everything on the dough, leaving a border of dough to fold over making a free-form crust), and for those of you who want your flour, and want it now, I am also posting at the bottom of my recipe, a delicious flour-based dough recipe that Deb, from Smitten Kitchen, uses for her savory tarts, adapted from William Sonoma.
zucchini tart with almond cheese cracker crust
filling adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, crust adapted from Primal Blueprint Cookbook
For the crust:
Make a batch of my almond cheese crackers.
For the cheese and zucchini filling:
1 large or 2 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced (1/8 inch setting on my mandolin, or as close as you can get to that by hand)
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (or mix both)
1/4 cup shredded or grated mozzerella
1 tablespoon basil chiffonade (chopped into thin slivers, but fancier when you say it in French)
1. Slice the zucchini with a mandoline, 1/8 inch setting, or slice by hand as close to that and as consistently as you can. Spread the slices out onto one or two sheet pans lined with paper towels. Sprinkle the slices generously with kosher salt, on both sides and allow them to sit and release their considerable water content onto the towels, for about 30 minutes. Pat dry.
2. While the zucchini are sweating out their moisture, make the crust by preparing my almond cheese crackers recipe. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Press the dough into a lightly greased, fluted 9-inch tart pan (or similar flat pan) until you form a 1/4 inch thick crust along the bottom and sides. Bake the crust (weights are not needed) for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned but not too brown because you will bake it again with the filling and you don’t want the crust to get over done. Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling.
3. While crust is baking and cooling, mix the olive oil and minced garlic in a small bowl. Hold aside. In another bowl combine the cheeses, salt and pepper to taste and a teaspoon of the garlic and oil mixture.
4. Pat the sweating zucchini dry. Once the crust is cooled, begin filling it by spreading the cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the crust. Then, begin laying down the zucchinni slices, shingle style (overlapping evenly) in a circle along the outer rim of the pan. Create another circle inside that circle and another one until the cheese mixture is completely covered by zucchini.
5. Evenly drizzle or brush the top of the zucchinni with the remaining garlic/oil mixture. Bake the tart until the cheese looks puffy under the zucchini and the zucchini is wilty and lightly carmelized. The rim of the crust should be a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with slivered basil. and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For the flour-based pastry dough:
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 chill again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water
Make dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, 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 sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Then, roll out the dough to a roundish form, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. I gently fold the dough in half and carry it over to the pan as if it were a wounded bird, not wanting to disturb it or damage it or tear it, then unfold it in the pan. Or, you can transfer the dough to a parchement lined baking sheet and make a more free-form gallette.