Sunday, April 18, 2010

the Sunday Special - Zucchini Tart

This week we're in the kitchen with Jessie B (ha ha, that's ME). yes, yes, not only do I paint and take my fair share of road trips, I also cook. I am what I call an 'experimental cook'. I tend to make "ice box" meals as my grandma would call it. That means I tend to raid the frig and cabinets and concoct a meal with what I find. Other times I look at recipes for inspiration and then use them as a rough guideline. If it's something completely foreign to me, I will follow the recipe a little closer. Most of the time, I'm just feeling adventurous and luckily it usually turns out good (or at least edible).

This week I tried something new... a Zucchini Tart. I was originally inspired by a recipe on Design Sponge, but then searched for alternative versions to see what kind of variety was out there. I came across a site called Chocolate and Zucchini and was intrigued by the simple ingredients and of all things, the crust. It calls for a hazelnut crust, but as I mentioned, I am very much into using ingredients I have on hand. So I used cocoa covered almonds. Here's would I did
(original recipe found here...and my alterations are made to it below)

(i only used 1 of the zucchinis shown)

Zucchini Tart on a Cocoa-covered Almond Thyme Crust
Almond-thyme crust:
- about 3/4 cup cocoa covered almonds (skin-on for a nicer color effect)
- 1 cup flour (I used high altitude whole wheat flour)
- 1 egg
- 6-7 tbsp butter, diced
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 large zucchini
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup neufchatel cheese (cream cheese can be substituted)
- sea salt and pepper
(Serves 4.)
Start with the dough. Chop the hazelnuts in a food processor until reduced to tiny chunks, small enough but not so fine as to be powdered. Add in the thyme and butter, and mix until combined. Add in the egg, mix again. Transfer to a medium mixing-bowl, and add in the flour progressively, kneading the dough until it is no longer sticky and can be rolled into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for a couple of hours. The dough can be frozen at this point, then thawed in the fridge before using.
Rinse the zucchini, and cut in sticks (about 16-20 sticks). Steam the zucchini sticks and let drain thoroughly.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
Roll out the dough on a floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper. Transfer the dough onto a 10-inch (mine was a little small at 8inches) pie mold (nonstick or buttered). I find it easier to work with one half of the dough at a time without caring too much about the shape, and then assemble pieces of the rolled out dough to adjust to the shape of the mold. Prick all over with a fork, top with parchment paper and baking beans if you have them, and put into the oven to pre-bake for ten minutes.
In a small mixing-bowl, beat together the neufchatel cheese and egg. Take the dough out of the oven, transfer onto a cooling rack, and spread the neufchatel mixture onto the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the zucchini sticks in a sunray pattern on top, breaking the sticks in smaller pieces to fill the gaps.
Put into the oven to bake for another 15 minutes, or until the filling looks set. You can make this ahead and reheat the tart for ten minutes just before serving.

Clotilde Dusoulier, the creator of the recipe, notes: the dough can also be used to make little crackers. Roll it out, glaze the surface with an egg yolk, sprinkle with salt, cut in the shape of your choice (sticks for instance), and bake on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet at 180°C (360°F) for about ten minutes, or until golden.
My personal opinion of this recipe is this... honestly, it was ok, with my favorite part being the crust. i agree they would make yummy crackers. i ended up following the recipe fairly close this first time, but i would make some additional alterations next time. the crust turned out great and would leave it the same if i had more almonds on hand, but would really like to try the hazelnuts too. i would use a bigger pan like she suggested, 10 in. i would like to add a little something else to the filling. we tried some left over taco meat on a piece and that was pretty good. so a little spice and either beef or mushrooms and onions is what i'm gonna try next. i also plan to try the original zucchini tart recipe i found over here and i'll report back on it once i do.

i dont recommend eating more than 1 piece by itself because it is kind of with a side dish. if you try this recipe, i'd love to hear what alterations you made and/or what dish(es) you ate along side it.
....................and that's the Sunday Special.

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