With all of the rain we have had this summer here in Virginia, gardens are flush with water-loving fruits and vegetables. Not only did my one zucchini plant finally yield three healthy, shiny squash, but I get at least two every week in my community share. Luckily there are many delicious ways to enjoy this vitamin-packed vegetable, that I never run out of ideas.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy zucchini is in a classic tart. Zucchini are sliced thin and layered in a flaky crust, then covered in a light custard. As lovely as this might sound, I sometimes find a plain tart to be flat in flavor. Happily zucchini has a light green flavor that can be dressed up with a variety of spices and florals. In this case I wanted to brighten the flavor of the zucchini, so I added some fresh basil from the garden and made a simple spice blend of lemongrass, coriander, and white pepper. This tart will fill your home with a delicious aroma while it bakes and makes for a lovely presentation. Serve hot or at room temperature.
For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cubed small
Pinch fine sea salt
1 large egg, beaten
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
For the filling:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped fine
1 1/4 pounds zucchini, any color, sliced thin
3 tablespoons heavy cream
4 large eggs
Pinch fine sea salt
1/4 fresh basil, sliced into thin strips (chiffonade)
2 teaspoons ground lemongrass
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
NOTE: I prefer to use a food processor to make this kind of crust. If you do not have food processor you can use a pastry cutter or two butter knives to combine the flour, butter, and salt. Just make sure you combine the crust ingredients to achieve the texture described below
1. Add the flour, butter, and salt to a large food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal - this usually takes about 12 pulses.
2. Add the egg and two tablespoons of heavy cream and pulse a few times until the dough starts to come together into a ball. If the dough is too dry, add more cream in increments of two teaspoons to get the right consistency. Pulse until all of the dough begins to clump up and form a ball.
3. Remove the dough from the food processor and shape into an even ball, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Place the wrapped dough on your counter and press down gently to form a thick disk. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 45 minutes.
4. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and remove from the plastic wrap. Place the dough on a well-floured surface and roll into a large circle about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a pie or tart pan and press gently into the pan. Trim the edges of the dough so that only 1 inch extends beyond the rim. Fold the excess dough back over the rim and crimp with your fingers, a spoon, or a fork to create nice, 1/4 inch thick edge to your tart. Prick the bottom of the tart crust a few times with a fork and cover with plastic wrap and chill while you preheat the oven,
5. Preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the tart crust from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Line the tart crust with parchment paper or foil and cover with dry beans or pie weights. Pre-bake the tart crust for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the the parchment or foil and beans or pie weights. Place the tart crust back into the oven to bake for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool while you make the filling.
6. For the filling: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and stir for 2 minutes.
7. Add the zucchini to the pan and reduce the temperature to medium. Saute for another 2-3 minutes until just slightly cooked. Remove from the heat and spread the mixture out on paper towels to drain off the extra liquid.
8. In a medium bowl beat together the eggs and heavy cream until well combined but not too frothy. Stir in the salt, basil, lemongrass, coriander, and white pepper.
9. Add the zucchini and onion to the tart crust and spread evenly. Pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and shake gently to settle.
10. Bake the tart for 40-45 minutes until it is golden brown and the filling is firm. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve hot or at room temperature.