Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy Hour Small Plates- Rustic Zucchini Tart

In the summer months I'm all about entertaining. I love the idea of a few friends over, drinks on the patio, a selection of appetizer style foods and small plates to share. Savory and sweet, light and lush. Chilled Riesling, cold craft beers, icy cocktails, laughing and enjoying the waning days of summer.

The baker in me also loves baking. Not the best idea in the summer so much, but sometimes late at night when The Chef is at work I will get out the baking supplies and create something new and delicious. I love anything with a European flair. French foods. Rustic Italian foods. Pastry. Cheesecakes. New recipes and old favorites I've made a million times. Like this one- I make galettes (rustic, freeform tarts) all the time. With all the access I have to fruit trees and generous friends, I always have several made ahead and frozen, ready to pop in the oven at the last minute. So as I'm sitting here, surrounded by piles of zucchini, I'm thinking quiche.... but easier, lighter, fresher. 

Pastry-making is one of the more basic cooking skills everyone should master. I learned to make pastry years ago the old way- with a pastry blender. These days the food processor makes it a snap to have homemade flaky pastry in minutes,  but if you dread the pastry part, it is okay to cheat and buy the ready-made kind for this recipe. Make sure you buy the refrigerated rolled pastry and let it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before using. Don't use the frozen pastry in the tin pans- that will not work with this recipe. If you are up to making your own though, PLEASE, I beg of you, use butter, shortening or lard to make the crust. DO NOT use margarine. You will be most unhappy if you do! I only use very cold butter cut into cubes.

I love this tart for lots of reasons. It uses up zucchini. It's easy to make and doesn't require half the kitchen in ingredients. It's perfect for a small plates dinner, sharing with friends over cocktails. It pairs beautifully with a glass of champagne. It's the perfect picnic food, individually wrap wedges and you're good to go. It goes beautifully with an icy cold Pinot Grigio. It makes a great breakfast the next day with some fresh fruit. It's very quiche-y without having $100 worth of cheese in there (I totally made that word up). It has that rustic look that I love so much- it looks so gourmet when in reality it's almost effortless to make. And most of all, it's delicious!

So let's get started on our Rustic Summer Zucchini Tart.  You will need:
  • pastry for one crust
  • 1 small  zucchini
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 2-3 tb cream cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped fresh thyme
  • chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • a little lemon zest
Make your pastry and set aside, covered.

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, then slice zucchini VERY thinly, set aside. You can use a mandolin if you have one but honestly, I am scared to death of mine. Bad, bad experience. I am in love with my trusty ceramic knife and used that.

Heat a couple TB olive oil in skillet, add onions, cook over medium heat until softened. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 additional minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add the goat cheese and cream cheese to the onion mixture. Using a wooden spoon mix and "smash" everything together until you have a mixture that's spreadable. Add a pinch of salt, a teaspoon or so of lemon zest, a couple nice pinches of fresh thyme and parsley, minced and some freshly ground black pepper. It's much easier to mix together if you bring the cheeses to room temperature. Set aside.

Roll the pastry out into large circle, doesn't have to be perfect. Transfer pastry to large baking sheet that has been sprayed with non stick cooking spray. The easiest way to do this is fold in half, fold in half and move, centering the "point". Next gently spread cheese mixture over, leaving about a 2 inch "rim".  Layer the zucchini slices in overlapping rows to completely cover the cheese. Fold the edge of the tart over, pleating as necessary, to tuck everything in and get that rustic look. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle lightly with shredded cheese such as mozzarella, if you like. Use just a TOUCH. Don't think pizza here. I really like the shredded parm as opposed to the usual grated stuff, it looks very nice melted and browned on the top but a little bit of mozzarella will do in a pinch.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30-40 minutes until crust is beautifully golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand at least 10-15 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle with more chopped fresh thyme and lemon zest. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Slice in thin wedges for appetizers or larger wedges for lunch servings. A nice mixed baby greens salad with a Dijon vinaigrette is the perfect accompaniment, or a fruit salad- fresh fruit, not the fluffy whipped topping kind. 

This is such a wonderful dish to experiment with too- try bumping up the flavor with a quick sprinkle of fresh lemon zest right before serving. Sun dried tomatoes would make a pretty addition too- chopped up and added after baking. A handful of toasted pine nuts, or walnuts. No thyme? Use whatever herb you have on hand- in this case though you really do need to go with fresh. You can add sun dried tomatoes to the softened cheese too, sprinkle on chopped sauteed mushrooms, jalapeno pepper, even seafood like crab or shrimp. Once you get started, your imagination will just go to work and you will create up a storm! Now all you need to do is set the table on the patio or pack that picnic basket.


  1. This is seriously gorgeous! Nice pastry work, by the way. Your crust looks so perfect.

  2. Beautiful! I make crostatas all the time...but always with fruit. I've never made a savory version...but this makes me want to head to the kitchen! Thanks for the nudge to the savory side!