Monday, May 31, 2010

ZUCCHINI RICOTTA FETA TART

LITTLE ELVES IN THE NIGHT


Who doesn’t remember the lovely Grimm Brothers’ Christmas story about the poor shoemaker? “(He) worked very hard and was very honest: but still he could not earn enough to live upon; and at last all he had in the world was gone, save just leather enough to make one pair of shoes.” He carefully cut out the leather for one last pair of shoes and lovingly laid the pieces out on his workbench before retiring for the night. “His conscience was clear and his heart light amidst all his troubles; so he went peaceably to bed, left all his cares to Heaven, and soon fell asleep. In the morning after he had said his prayers, he sat himself down to his work; when, to his great wonder, there stood the shoes all ready made, upon the table.

Of course, one night he decides to wait up, hoping to surprise whoever was sneaking into his workshop and making the beautiful shoes in his place. And, lo and behold, he spies 2 little elves, merry as can be, rushing into the workshop, “stitching and rapping and tapping away at such a rate, that the shoemaker was all wonder, and could not take his eyes off them.” Until, just at the break of day, the shoes finished, off they bustle as quick as lightening.


Well, I have elves. They may not be naked (the shoemaker makes little clothes to thank his elves for their help), or at least I hope they are not if they are sitting on either my kitchen chairs or livingroom sofa, and they may not whip up a gorgeous pair of shoes or even a cake for me to discover the following morning, but elves they are, silent as the night, tiptoeing into the kitchen at the stroke of midnight (or later) and helping this housewife clean out her refrigerator. Yes, they devour great quantities of food, leftovers, macarons by the dozen, bowls of pasta and slices of cold pizza, even surreptitiously making bottles of wine disappear. I am sure that they feel that they are doing me a favor, and happy mother I am knowing that no little elves are going hungry, but darn if I’m not anxious to do as the poor shoemaker and his wife and stay up all night concealed behind the curtains hoping to catch our own little elves in the act of selfless gorging that they do so kindly on my behalf.

And last night was no different. I had carefully wrapped up the last slices of the delicious Zucchini Ricotta Feta Tart and placed them in the refrigerator before I took myself off to bed. This morning I awoke and straggled into the kitchen, rubbing sleep out of my eyes, and put the water for coffee on to boil. Breakfast table laid, husband joined me and we began the breakfast dance, the ritual around the morning meal, the same foods, the same gestures, sharing the first words, the first smiles, the first laughter of the day. And that was when I noticed it: the tart pan sitting alone and empty on the countertop. Tonnerre de tonnerre! It happened again! Sapristi the elves have struck again!

"Good morning, darling, what would you like for breakfast today?"

2 young gentlemen, architecture students both, sometimes joined by a third, spending evenings sitting at desks side by side, working on projects of paper and cardboard and glue and scissors, or clicking and clacking away on their computers, images twisting and turning and floating on screen, far into the night and often into the wee hours of the morning. Like little elves, working best in the dark quiet of night away from parental prying eyes. Growing boys, needing energy to push those brains to work long hours, needing nourishment to keep their bodies going, young men singing along to the music echoing in the night feeling a hunger sneak up and rumble low in their tummies, a hunger growing, disturbing their thoughts. A sign passes between them, a look, a nod of the head, and off they go, tiptoeing silently from one end of the house to the other, past the dog (Pray that he does not wake and, anxious to join them for a midnight snack, begin to bark!) and they slip noiselessly into the kitchen. Foraging in the refrigerator, savory or sweet or even a little of both, making no noise with the cutlery or as they slide one ceramic plate off the shelf at a time, slicing the knife through a dense slice of chocolate cake or cutting off sliver after sliver of rich Zucchini Ricotta Tart, tangy with feta and cool with mint. Silent as the shadows, they eat to their hearts’ content and, tummies full, off they skip back to their little elves’ lair to finish their own important work or, if not, simply to close their books and put away their pencils and crawl off to bed.

Feeding all of the little architecture student elves of Nantes...

Now, if those little elves would only do the dishes!


Mother’s Day has once again come and gone and Son #1, whom I thought had forgotten the day, arrived in the afternoon arms filled with beautiful plants, a kitchen garden: mint and rosemary, basil and chives. Lovely, just lovely. Thank you, Clem.

I am sending this delicious tart to Ivonne of Creams Puffs in Venice for her Magazine Mondays!


ZUCCHINI RICOTTA TART with feta and mint
From June 2010 Saveurs magazine (Tarte aux Courgettes, Feta et Ricotta)

Short crust pastry for one 8- or 9-inch pie plate (recipe follows), chilled
2 medium zucchini
7 oz (200 g) ricotta (I used fresh ewe’s milk ricotta)
7 oz (200 g) feta cheese
2 large eggs
A few branches of mint (about 2 Tbs or so chopped leaves)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Make the short crust pastry and wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill so it will be easier to roll out.

Before preparing the filling, roll the pastry out to fit in your buttered pie tin, press it into the tin, trim and poke all over with a fork. Place back in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Wash and trim the zucchini. Slice into ¼-inch coins. Sauté the zucchini, one layer at a time, in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Lightly brown each batch on one side, flip the slices, salt and pepper and continue cooking for a few minutes until lightly browned on the bottom and the zucchini is tender. Continue until all of the zucchini is golden and tender. Allow to drain on paper towels.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the ricotta using a whisk or a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the eggs and continue whisking or beating until well blended and smooth. Chop the feta until small cubes and add to the bowl, beating in until part of the feta has dissolved into the mixture and is creamy and part are left in small chunks. Finely chop or scissor cut the mint in a glass. Add to the cheese mixture with salt and pepper to taste.


Remove the pie shell from the refrigerator. Line the bottom of the shell with about half or a bit less of the zucchini slices. Pour the ricotta, feta, mint mixture in the shell and spread evenly. Place the rest of the zucchini slices all over the top of the cheese mixture, slightly overlapping.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes. The filling should be slightly puffed up and firm to the touch (like a quiche) and golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, allowing the tart to settle.

Serve with a mixed green salad or fresh, ripe, sweet tomatoes with a tart vinaigrette. And a glass of wine.


SHORT CRUST PASTRY perfect for savory tarts and quiches
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking (by you know who, of course)

5 oz (150 g) flour
Scant ½ tsp salt
Big pinch of sugar
4 oz (120 g) unsalted butter, cubed
4 – 4 ½ Tbs cold water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the cubes of butter, tossing to coat with flour so they don’t stick together. Using the tips of your fingers and thumbs, rub the butter and flour together rapidly as if pushing the butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and it resembles oatmeal. Do not overwork this mixture as the butter will melt and start to clump; it will be blended better later.

Add about 3 tablespoons of the cold water and blend very quickly with a fork. Add more water, as much as needed, onto the dry flour and continue to stir up from the bottom until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough begins pulling together.

Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface. With the heel of one hand, rapidly smear and push the dough onto the surface and away from you, about a tablespoon of dough at a time, smearing it onto the work surface. This will complete the blending of the butter and the flour.

Scrape the dough up and gather it into a ball. Knead gently and briefly just enough to make a smooth, homogenous ball of dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll out easily.


39 comments:

Happy Cook said...

It is so thoughtfull of your son to bring those herb garden for you. I would love that :-)
Love love this tart and i love zuchini.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A fabulously summery tart! Gorgeous flavors. Mmmhhh, herbs from the garden...

Cheers,

Rosa

Lora said...

great post and the recipe looks delish.

Ms. WhitePlates said...

A delightful and forward thinking son, I mean elf ... giving you herbs for future midnight snacks and a beautiful windowsill! This tart has me looking forward to zucchini season, perhaps a little more now!

DebbieK said...

Looks yummy...this one looks perfect for summer...I'll let you know how it turns out(maybe I'll wait til Yasmin gets home from college next week and give her a homework assignment..make Jamie's tart) BTW, she's joining me to come visit you while the rest of the gang hits Sea World.

asiangrrl said...

That tart looks so mouthwateringly-good, no wonder the elves made it disappear in the wee hours of the night!

Madhuli said...

Love the tart Jamie..and for a change I have all the ingredients..Looks very delicious..thanks for the lovely recipe..xo

Jill Riter said...

a really beautiful piece of art, this tart! bet it tastes just as good.

Julia @Mélanger said...

Firstly, delicious tart. Just a perfect treat for any time of day, really.

I love all those stories. Something so true in them, even now....

Barbara said...

A fabulous zucchini tart! No wonder elves come in the night to finish it off!

Claudia said...

Cheese tarts seem to be everywhere. Just made one with goat and onsidering ricotta and here you are. Finishing a play based on ELVES AND THE SHOEMAKER - so I am consumed by elves.

Jamie said...

@Claudia: that's funny about the elves!

Mary said...

I have long suspected and now know without doubt that you are an gifted writer and cook who is also fey. I love the tart but most of all I loved your post this morning, Jamie.
Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

RecipeGirl said...

This is beautiful and delicious-looking. Perfect lunch choice for me!

Deeba PAB said...

Ahahahaha... testimony to the fact that it was SO GOOD! Loved your tale, and loved the tart. Feta is something I dream of baking with one day ... maybe we can do it together in Nantes!
xoxo
Will miss being at the FBC. Good luck for it, and ENJOY!!

Jamie said...

@Mary, truly, coming from someone as gifted as you are that is a true compliment indeed. Thank you.

M. said...

what a beautiful tart...zucchini and ricotta....great combo....loved your little elf story.... :)

RamblingTart said...

Oh how splendid, Jamie!! :-) I have zucchini in my fridge waiting oh so patiently for me to do something with it, but my poor brain was at a standstill. Until now. :-) LOVE this tart so much!! :-)

Junglefrog said...

O what a gorgeous tart Jamie!! Can I have a bit of that?
I just wanted to wish you a fabulous time in London before I head of to Italy and I am sure I will read all about it when I come back home and I am sure I will be jealous that I was not there!! Have a great time and say hi to everyone from me..:))

Dragon said...

What an amazing looking dish!

MeetaK said...

Sons ARE really very sensitive towards their mummies. Today I got a lovely picture hand drawn by Soeren for his birthday. I also know he was up before 6 AM to draw it as I heard him. So you gotta love em!

I am loving this tart. I made one very similar to this a while back too. Delicious, light and simply scrumptious!

Ana Powell said...

Always the best, great post ♥

Anonymous said...

with three growing boys at home, along with their friends, I understand you too well. Didn't I just cook? where has all the food gone? Love zucchini and that pretty little vache cow plate your tart rests upon.Have fun in England for the FBC!

lisaiscooking said...

Sometimes I wish some elves would come and empty my refrigerator for me! Your tart look fantastic. Just in time for lots of zucchini and summer squash coming my way.

Sophie said...

A stunning summer's tarte,..;aka quiche!! I so love zucchinis fresh from my father's garden & I so love ricotta & feta too!

MMMMM,..dear Jamie!

I also saw your post with the croquembouche,...fabulous too!

cedar chests said...

This is a healthy and refreshing treat! I just love this one! Thanks for the share!

Peter M said...

Jamie, you know I'm all over this dish with summery Greek zucchini and Feta, OPA!

Cristie said...

What a sweet elf! Love the recipe, can't wait for my zucchini to grow to give this a try. It sounds wonderful!

buffalodick said...

A well told story! With a happy ending, too!

Kevin said...

This zucchini tart sounds really good. I like the use of the feta in it!

Chef Dennis said...

what a gorgeous tart!! it looks absolutely delicious!

Fresh Local and Best said...

What a beautiful zucchini tart. This recipe is arriving in time, right when zucchinis are ready to hit the market in full force.

How nice of your son to bring home a bunch of herb plants. It's a gift that keeps on giving.

gastroanthropologist said...

I'm frantically gathering zucchini recipes because I know every summer there will be too many zucchini's and I can only make so many zucchini breads! This is so bookmarked.

I saw your post last night, but was almost off to bed, so I saved it till today when I knew I had time to enjoy it!

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

Oh what a hilarious post Jamie - I loved it! You must be so proud when your men lick their plates clean - just goes to show how good your cooking is! It was lovely seeing you again over the weekend. Will you be cooking plaice soon?

Jamie said...

@Mowie : ROTFL! Too funny! Hmmm maybe I can get JP to whip up a plaice in his new fish poacher. I'll invite Hilda and Jeanne. It was fab seeing both you and Bruce over the weekend and I do hope you'll call when you are in my area in August! xo

Sippity Sup said...

So just to be clear. There were never any elves, right? It was your son all along... GREG

Jamie said...

@Sippity Sup: Greg, I think that if they were elves they would've washed their dishes instead of leaving them for me :-)

Joudie's Mood Food said...

I was reading your info on about me and felt like it was about myself slightly. I began in art history, worked and ran an art gallery and now i am a preffessionalchef and have been for the last 10 years. I love the look of this dish and your blog is lovely. I will defintiley be puttin gyou on my blog roll and visiting often....

creampuff said...

Oh Jamie, this post is so sweet! Your little elves sound delightful. And the tart ... two of my favourite cheese in one place!

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