Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Zucchini Tart Tale

Do you ever get recipe envy? I do. Sometimes a lovely recipe will stick in my mind, whispering softly "Make me..." until I just have to give in -- even if it means breaking my vow to stop the menace that is my baking habit (I bake it, I eat it...all of it.)

When a dear friend came over for some pear-inspired cocktails and dinner, I knew I'd found the very reason to try out Clotilde Dusoulier's magnificent zucchini topped Tarte Fine. The real attraction here was two fold: first, that this was a light appetizer that would pair well (pardon the pun) with our pear cocktails.

But second and the more fascinating point of interest is that genius cook Clotilde offers up a puff-pastry clone that uses yogurt. Yes, yogurt. I'd been hunting around for a puff pastry alternative (I am both too lazy and cheap to make or buy it, respectively) and this, well, this was perfect. Because what do I always have around...aside from lemons...yogurt! I'm fairly obsessed.

So I was off to bake when I re-read the recipe and saw that the zucchini was served raw. Clotilde had lovely, tender young yellow zucchini. Of course she did. I, scouring the remnants of the CSA veggie dump, did not. I had an ornery looking mid-size zucchini that had perhaps seen better days. Leaving him (the male pronoun is a given) uncooked, even sliced super thin, was not going to be pleasant. He needed some cooking to get tender. I also didn't have the lovely little cheeses that Clotilde describes to make a topping, so more substitutions were coming ahead.

And then I remembered Smitten Kitchen's Zucchini Galette. Bingo. I'd take the topping and cooking time from one and the pastry from another. A Frankenstein-ed recipe that turned out, well, perfectly. Light slightly crunchy crust with zesty, creamy ricotta and the peppery thin zucchini -- a great nibble for our cocktail hour.

Zucchini Ricotta Tart

Yogurt Puff Pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plain 1% yogurt (Clotilde says full fat, but this worked well)
1/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the flour in a large-ish bowl and make a well in the center. Add the yogurt to the center (you don't want too much whey, so if it is from the top of the container, mix it up a bit.) Using a fork or pastry blender combine the yogurt with the flour. Add the butter, cubed, and salt into the mix and "cut in" the butter to the yogurt-flour mixture until you can't see the butter cubes anymore. The mixture will be a little sticky and will hold together. If it doesn't hold together, add a little more yogurt.

You need to knead this lightly (ha!) and I just did this in the bowl, but the proper way is on a floured surface. Then form into a disk and wrap it in saran wrap. Chill for an hour (or up to one day) in the fridge. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment until it is about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. You will transfer the dough on this parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Now on to the topping...

Zucchini Galette Topping
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Zucchini Galette

1 medium or 2 small zucchini, sliced thin to about 1/4 inch
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated on the microplane
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg white

Slice the zucchini and lay it out on paper towels. Salt and let the zucchini sit for 30 minutes. (Do this before you roll out the dough!)

Mix the garlic and olive oil in a bowl. In another bowl place the ricotta cheese. Mix in 1 teaspoon of the garlic oil.

In the center of the rolled out dough, leaving a 1 1/2-2 inch border, spread the ricotta cheese. Pat the zucchini dry and to remove some of the salt and leeched liquid. Now, the fun part. Layer and overlap the zucchini in rows. Drizzle more of the garlic oil on top and salt and pepper to taste. I like black pepper and zucchini together so I added a lot of black pepper.

Fold up the sides of the dough to make a barrier. The cheese is unlikely to spill out, but a good step nonetheless. Brush dough with whipped egg white (or egg yolk).

Bake in a 400F oven for 30 minutes. The cheese will puff up a little and the zucchini will look melty and cooked but not browned. The crust will be a light tan color. Let the galette sit and serve at room temperature.

French flare comes to an ornery zucchini
Light but satisfying nibbles so we could keep the pear cocktails flowing
Ingredients on hand, so thrifty if not totally healthy

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