fancy pants pastry!

Yeah, this is right before I ate it without a fork.  Who needs forks?

Actually, I should be more accurate: this looks fancy pants but isn't really.  And it's no secret that the way to get "fancy" food things that are really dead easy is to just go to Trader Joes.  I mean, that's what their frozen aisle is for, right?

In this case, I'm falling back on a favorite trick of mine for summer cooking: their frozen puff pastry (all butter, yo!).  It's the quickest, easiest way to make a fancy veg tart, or fruit tart, or food-item-on-top-of-flaky-butter-pastry-for-me-to-eat. Just defrost, unroll, top with something, and bake.

They just come off the mandoline like this! please to note, the safety dohickeys that keep you from slicing off fingers.

Because we were on the dredges of the zucchini and yellow squash from the last few weeks of CSA boxes, and I only had one sad little overripe tomato left, I decided against making my summer standby with puff pastry, a tomato tart.  Instead I went fancier! and busted out the mandoline to slice the zucchini and squash into thin little rounds.

A note on mandolines: I freaking love them. Mine is awesome, though a pain in the ass to store (affiliate link to a very similar one as mine from the same brand. Mine is a decade old, and this new one looks easier to store, actually).  But I prefer it to the smaller hand-held ones, because I am less likely to slice off my hand since it has not just a stand, but also a slider guard thing and a holder guard thing.  Plus it makes satisfying little piles of veg. 

I cut the tomato by hand because it was seriously overripe and so so soft.  I used the handy dandy serrated paring knife--which for real is the best $10 I've spent in ages (affiliate link. Mine's yellow).  Serrated knives are great for slicing things that are firmer on the outside than they are on the inside--like, say, tomatoes and bread.  And this knife is a major workhorse in my kitchen because hi, tomatoes and bread.  

the unrolled sheet of pastry.  mmm . . . pastry.

I defrosted the frozen puff pastry by leaving it out on the counter for a few hours, though if you plan ahead better than I do, you can also just leave it in the fridge overnight.  I really like the Trader Joes brand because not only is it all butter and therefore tastes way better, but the rolls of pastry are individually wrapped.  This way, you can open the box (which generally contains two rolls), and not have your unused roll dry out on you when you forget about it in the freezer for two weeks. Ahem. Not that that's happened ever.

Cause I like crust, I cut the pastry into a few smaller pieces to make smaller tarts (using scissors, but a sharp knife works well too), and popped them onto a baking sheet. I've also just unrolled the whole thing onto a baking sheet and used that for a larger tart (works well with tomatoes).  Using the back of a paring knife, I gently scored a line about 3/4 inch inside the edge--this not only gives you a visual guide of where to put the toppings, but also helps the edges of the tart puff up a bit more evenly.


cream cheese, doctored up.

For an all tomato tart, I generally just lay on the tomatoes, with no base layer.  But I wasn't sure how well the zucchini and squash would do with that, so I added a thin layer of cheese.  We were all out of goat cheese, so I grabbed some cream cheese (maybe a tablespoon or two?), doctored it up with salt, pepper, a glug of olive oil and grated a clove of garlic into the mix.  Had I thought about it for more than a second, I probably could have added some chives and parmesan, too.  Alas, next time.


I spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mix onto the dough with the back of a spoon, and then layered the slices all pretty-like.  I started in the lower left, and going clockwise, you can see how the pretty-like devolved as I went along. The cheese helps keep the slices in place.  Give each tart a giant sprinkle of kosher salt, a ton of ground black pepper, and a little drizzle of olive oil, and you're nearly ready to go.



see the salt and pepper? Don't forget that.

Half the time I do anything with puff pastry, I forget to do the egg wash, which makes the pastry all shiny and pretty.  Sometimes if I remember, I do a halfhearted wash with some milk or half and half, which isn't a bad second option.  But this time, THIS TIME, I remembered!  I beat the shit out of an egg with a splash of water, and used a wee little silicone pastry brush (from sur la table, love this thing), to brush it on the pastry before baking.



The tarts cooked at 400 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, until dark golden brown.  Don't skimp on the cooking time.  Light brown is bullshit.  Go for the dark golden brown like a boss.

mmm pastry.

Eat warm, or room temp. Both are good. But do it quick: the only caveat for these savory zucchini/tomato/squash tarts is that they don't keep well.  They're a eat right now and don't wait until tomorrow kind of thing.  The pastry gets soggy and chewy after a stay in the fridge.  But that's ok, because honestly, if you can not eat all of them in one sitting, you are a far better person than me.  (And also crazy, just saying.)


SQUARSH! (which is what my dad always says, and I totally just realized now that it's him doing a bad Philly accent while saying it. Der.)

We have a lot of it right now, mostly because while the CSA keeps on a coming with summer squash and zucchini we are slacking hard at keeping up.  Mostly because no one in my house loves squarsh the way some people love squarsh.  I mean, it's fine, but it's certainly not my go to summer veg for anything.  Which means that the lovely squashes and zucchinis lie waiting in the crisper drawer until they turn gross and go to live with Jesus in the compost pile. 

Though because of this, I've got three solid options for ways to use up a ton of zucchini or summer squash!  Two are tried and true by yours truly, and one is a Julia Child recipe and never doubt the Julia, my friends. NEVER.


Zucchini Spread

AKA CRACK.  This is the shit, yo.  It's so so good, and so so simple.  Essentially, slow poach zucchini and/or squash in butter and oil with garlic.  Then eat it all on crusty bread or crackers. Or on toasted multigrain bread with tomato and salt and pepper with a plop of fresh ricotta.  Crap, now I'm hungry.

  • 3-5 zucchini or squash, or a mix thereof, washed and cubed
  • 4-6 smashed garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • pepper

Place a medium heavy saucepan on medium heat, and melt the olive oil and butter together.  Before it starts to sizzle, throw in the garlic and zucchini/squash cubes.  Give a stir, cover and cook on medium low for about 15 minutes or until the zucchini has started to soften.

Reduce the heat to very very low, and continue to cook, stirring pretty often.  You want to melt the zucchini into a spread by cooking out most of the liquid without creating mush.  If it starts to brown, add a bit of water (or white wine).  It should take about an hour to essentially make the zucchini butter.

Can eat it warm, room temp or cold. It'll keep for about a week in the fridge, but also freezes really well.  Can also use it as a tart filling, by spreading on defrosted puff pastry, and folding over the edges, then baking.  

Next up? 

Corn and Zucchini Saute

I grabbed this from a Fine Cooking article years ago, and never looked back.  They had some other options for sautes in there, but this was by far the tastiest. I've tweaked it a bit as I've gone along to better suit my tastes.  While the recipe calls for raw corn cut off the cob, I've also used leftover grilled or steamed corn (cut off the cob), and in a pinch frozen corn. It scales up easily as well, so I've often doubled the amount of zucchini with no problems.

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups small-diced sweet onion, (or half a large onion). Regular onion is also fine
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1-1/4 cups small-diced zucchini (or more--anywhere from 1 medium on up)
  • 2 slightly heaping cups fresh corn kernels (from 4 medium ears), or from leftover cooked on the cob
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • Scant 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • Scant 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint (optional, I never have it)
  • One-quarter lemon, or splash of lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Melt 1 tbsp butter with the olive oil in a large straight sided saute pan or dutch oven over medium low. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent--abt 5 minutes. Crank the heat a bit and cook a little longer until the onions are light gold and shrunken.

Add the other 1 tbsp butter and the zucchini.  Cook over medium, stirring occasionally until the zucchini is also slightly shrunken and nearly tender (abt 3 minutes).  Add the corn, the garlic and the rest of the salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, and scraping up the bottom of the pan until corn is tender.  Add in the cumin and coriander and cook for another 30 seconds or so. 

Off heat, add mint, if using, pepper, and a solid squeeze of lemon juice.  Give it another stir and let sit for a few minutes for the moisture of the veg to soften the brown stuff on the bottom of the pan.  Scrape it up and stir again, taste for salt/pepper/lemon.  

And third, via Food52 is

Julia Child's Zucchini Tian.

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds zucchini
  • 1/2 cup plain, raw, untreated white rice
  • cup minced onions
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • large cloves garlic, mashed or finely minced
  • tablespoons flour
  • About 2 1/2 cups warm liquid: zucchini juices plus milk, heated gently in a pan so as not to curdle
  • About 2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese (save 2 tablespoons for later)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A heavily buttered 6- to 8-cup, flameproof baking and serving dish about 1 1/2 inches deep
  • tablespoons olive oil

coarsely grate the zucchini or squash, and place in a colander set over a bowl. For each pound/2 cups of grated squash, toss with 1 tsp of salt.  Let the squash drain for 3-4 minutes--do not throw out the veg water!

Just before cooking squeeze a handful dry over the bowl and taste. If it's too salty, give it a quick rinse and taste again.  Squeeze gently by handfuls, letting the juice run back into the bowl. Dry on paper towels.

Drop the rice into boiling salted water, and boil exactly 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large frying pan, cook the onions in oil about 8-10 minutes until tender and translucent. Raise the heat slightly and stir until lightly browned.  Stir in the grated and dried zucchini and garlic. Toss until almost tender.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir over moderate heat about 2 minutes.  Take off heat.

Gradually stir in 2 1/2 c. warm liquid (zucchini juice plus milk).  Make sure the flour is well blended and smooth.

Return to med high heat and bring to the simmer, stirring.  Remove from the heat and stir in the blanched rice and all but 2 tbsp of the cheese.  Taste for seasoning and turn into a buttered baking dish. Scatter the rest of the cheese on top, and drizzle the olive oil over the cheese.  

Bake at 425 degrees until it bubbles and the top is nicely browned.  The rice should absorb all the liquid.