Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tonight's dinner: brought to you by puff pastry

With each CSA vegetable we receive, there's always a certain point where you've gotten so much of it, you feel like it's just coming out of your ears and you have no idea what to do with it anymore. That's how I felt about summer squash - until I found this recipe for a summer squash tart on a puff pastry base. Sold! I changed it up a little bit, though - adding hazelnuts and thyme, subtracting feta cheese - so I'll post my adapted recipe below. It ended up being really good - though, of course, it's pretty hard for anything on top of buttery, flaky puff pastry to be actually bad.

We ate this for dinner tonight along with a chilled yogurt and cucumber soup with shrimp from Ina Garten via Sparrows and Spatulas. Ed thought it tasted like tzatziki sauce; I thought it was more like something I'd expect to find at an IKEA summer smorgasbord. We both liked it a lot, though - it's exactly the kind of cool, refreshing supper you want to have in the sweltering evenings of July and August.

And then, dessert. I'd bought a bunch of plums at the market this morning, intending to bake them into a moist, rich almond cake. But once I got home and started looking around for recipes, I couldn't seem to find one that I was really excited about. Plum and almond tarts, on the other hand...

These couldn't be easier to make, and they taste almost as good as any fancy bakery tart I've ever had. The plums are tart and juicy, the frangipane rich and sweet and the pastry crisp and tender. A little sprinkling of powdered sugar provides the literal icing on the cake. These will be perfect for breakfast in the morning - if they survive the night, that is.

Summer Squash Tart
serves four hungry people or six people of normal appetite

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 c. ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 small bunch of parsley
1 medium onion, sliced
2 or 3 medium sized zucchini or summer squash (I used a mix of yellow zucchini and squash)
olive oil
1 small bunch of thyme
1/4 c. hazelnuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg and parsley. Add salt (generously) and pepper to taste; set aside. Thinly slice the onion and cook with a splash of olive oil over medium high heat until caramelized - about eight to ten minutes. Slice squash into thin rounds. (I used the largest setting on my mandoline; slices should be less than 1/4" thick.)

Lay the puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and cover with ricotta mixture, leaving a 1/2" border for a crust. Add sliced squash and make a pretty pattern. Now step back and admire your work for a moment. Aww, that looks lovely! Okay, keep moving - pour a bit of olive oil into a bowl and brush it over the top of the tart until each slice of squash is just glistening. Top with stripped thyme leaves and pop it into the oven until the squash is tender and the edges of the pastry are golden-brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with toasted hazelnuts. Let cool slightly before serving.

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