Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer squash, spring onion, and heirloom tomato tart

My friend Margaret came over for dinner the other night, and I felt a bit like she'd joined the audience at an Iron Chef taping. Jon had surprised me with produce from the Greenmarket, and I had to figure out a way to use the featured ingredients. Margaret and Jon went along with it, somehow unflinchingly confident that I'd pull together a dinner in the end, using all the things that had caught Jon's eye on his way to work that morning. The last item he bought, a sweet potato, inspired us both to think – hmmm, wouldn't that be good as ice cream? – and Jon took on the challenge.

I began with a version of my now-fallback spinach and strawberry salad, with the addition of pea shoots that we'd bought the weekend before. It went over well, as expected, and I could concentrate my creative efforts on the main course. We had two beautiful heirloom tomatoes, like bruises ready to bleed, and four young specimens of yellow squash. I found this recipe for a summer squash tart, held together with chevre and pesto, and we just happened to have a whole bunch of basil left over from ceviche night. I whipped up some pesto on the spot with that, the last crunchy bits of a block of parmigiano (augmented with cage-aged gruyere), and some raw pecans, in place of pignoli. That got mixed in with a log of chevre from the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company to make a sort of pesto spread.

We've been very good about sticking to whole grains around here, so I scoured the internet for a puff pastry recipe that uses white whole wheat flour, which I've come to love. Nothing doing in that realm, so I just risked it all and subbed it into this recipe for a rough puff. Happily, despite my adventurous streak and my lack of baking experience, the crust turned out delicious. I'm sure it'll come into frequent rotation as our CSA starts up this week, and next time I'll take it out of the broiler 30 seconds sooner!


Time: 50 minutes active, 60 minutes inactive

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb small yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 large spring onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp prepared pesto
5 oz fresh goat cheese, softened
2 red heirloom tomatoes, very thinly sliced

For the puff pastry:
1 1/4 cups cold white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. salt
12 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup very cold water

1. Pour the flour and salt onto the cold cubes of butter. Using a chef's knife, cut the butter into the flour. Work until you have a crumbly mixture. Flatten any large chunks of butter with just your fingertips. Add the ice-cold water a little at a time to loosely bind the dough. Mix the dough until it just hangs together. Shape the messy, shaggy dough into a rough rectangle and roll it out until it's 1/2 inch thick. Resist the temptation to overwater or overwork the dough; it will eventually hold together.
2. Fold the dough in thirds like a business letter. Don't worry if it breaks in pieces. Turn the package of dough 90 degrees so the folds run vertically. Square off the edges of the dough as you work. Roll the dough into a rectangle that's 1/2 inch thick, always rolling from open end to open end. Continue rolling, folding, and turning until the dough looks smooth. By four or five "turns," the dough should hang together well.
3. For even more layers, fold the smooth dough up like a book. To do this, fold the two shorter sides into the center and then fold the dough like a book. Brush off excess flour as you fold. Wrap the dough and chill it for half an hour before giving it two final turns. At this point, you can then use the dough, though another short rest will make rolling and shaping easier.
4. Preheat the oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the squash and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash and onion are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, blend the pesto with the goat cheese. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 12-inch by 8-inch rectangle. Lay it on the parchment sheet. Spread the goat cheese all over the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with the squash mixture. Arrange the tomato slices on the tart and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold up the sides, pressing the corners together. Trim any excess pastry at the corners.
6. Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 35 minutes, until the edges are golden and the bottom is completely cooked through. Finish in the broiler for 2 minutes, watching more carefully than I did that it doesn't burn. Cut into squares and serve right away.

Yield: 6 servings


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