“Cozy and Rustic”
When my husband and I decided to build a house in Montana, we lived about 3,000 miles away in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was not an impulsive decision to compensate for the fact that we were season-loving, road trip-taking, “powder shredding” (him, not me) Midwesterners living on a perpetually 85 degree island in the middle of the ocean. No, it was not. In fact, we discussed the matter long before we were married and before the possibility of living in Hawaii was even a dot on our radar. The northwest has always appealed to us, or at least it has for as long as I can remember. Feeling somewhat less than ambitious one day many years ago, I told my parents that as long as I could afford a cardboard box and a ticket to Montana, I would be happy. Their eyes widened, their lips pursed, their heads slowly nodded, and they said something like, “Ooooook.”
For all of you who have built, purchased, or even maintained a home, you know it’s a monumental undertaking. Doing it from several thousand miles and four time zones away while working full time was, how do I put this…hectic? overwhelming? certifiably insane. Fortunately, our saving grace was that the style we were going for was ‘cozy’ and ‘rustic’ (or what other family members may describe as ‘small’ and ‘sh%#ty’). Remember what I said about the cardboard box though? Talk about exceeding my expectations; our cozy and rustic home may as well be the Taj Mahal. We built it as a place to nurture our family and we absolutely love it.
My first major project as a new homeowner was clearing a space for a vegetable garden. Last year I was blessed with a tremendous amount of beginners luck. Everything I planted was a bumper crop. This year, however, the luck wore off. First it was the deer invasion and inadequate water supply while we were out of town. Next it was the over-watering which led to powdery mildew. And finally, the overly nitrogenous soil conditioner I used as a last ditch effort; it ended up starving certain plants of calcium and caused blossom end rot. Nailed it.
While this year’s garden isn’t nearly as productive as last year’s, it’s still managing to yield a decent number of zucchini and tomatoes. After what I expected to be a total loss, I’ll take it! The raw zucchini/tomato combo is lovely on its own (stay tuned), but if you tuck those fresh off the vine fruits and veggies into a buttery, nutty crust intensely flavored with sweet caramelized garlic, and cover them with a perfectly savory and not too rich custard, you’ll have yourself a little slice of rustic heaven.
This tart finds itself on our dinner table at least once a week starting in early August. It’s one of the few meals my entire family will devour without a single complaint. That includes my seriously carnivorous husband and raw vegan (with the exception of cookies and ice cream) three year old. Like anything else, this tart is best with local organic produce. If you don’t have access to a garden or farmer’s market, don’t let that stop you; go forth and bake.
Try these seasonal flavor combinations and you’ll have a ‘meatless Monday’ entree all year round: roasted asparagus and fresh peas in the spring; roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes and shallots in the fall; and roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta in the winter. Served with a fresh loaf of pain au levain, a simply dressed leafy green salad, and perhaps a glass or two of wine, it would be perfect for an intimate dinner party. This recipe is a bit time consuming, but honestly, it’s not difficult. You can make it up to a day in advance, store it in the refrigerator and serve it at room temperature or reheated in a 350ºF oven for about 10 minutes. I highly encourage you to double the crust recipe and freeze half in order to save yourself some time and effort the next time you make the tart. Yes, there will be a next time!
I could devote an entire post to this crust. It’s my absolute favorite. I thought I’d perfected the art of crust making, but then I discovered Yossy Arefi’s blog, Apt 2B Baking Co. She adds rye flour to many of her crusts and pastries. Being a big fan of rye, I gave it a try. I don’t know what to say other than, “Thank you, Yossy; you’re brilliant!” The subtle crush and nutty warmth provided by the rye flour is to die for. It is the ideal crust for anything you choose to tuck inside, sweet or savory.
UPDATE: At 4 o’clock this morning I woke up in a panic because it occurred to me that I forgot a critical attribution. A dear friend, who I spent several hours with yesterday (and still neglected to gain permission to publish her name), was the person who inspired this recipe from the beginning! Thank you to the lovely Proctor for being the recipient of my over-abundant herbs and zucchini and for giving me the idea to turn them into this recipe! XO
Too lazy to write this whole tart recipe for my best friend when she asked for it a while back (here it is!), I conducted an exhaustive Google search for a similar recipe and landed on real gem. I want to credit Alana Taylor-Tobin of The Bojon Gourmet for the idea of using fresh garlic. She makes a similar, but far more stunning eggplant and tomato tart. I’d been seasoning the zucchini with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to get the garlic flavor. I liked her idea of using fresh garlic so much that I took it one step further by roasting a whole head of garlic and rubbing it all over the bottom of the crust. Jackpot.
If you don’t have a tart pan,
you should buy one I think a regular pie pan would work; just fold the edges of the dough to a height of about one inch up the side of the pan. Make sure the pie weights are at least equal in height to the top of the crust when blind baking, otherwise, the sides of the crust will collapse into the bottom of the pan. Hey, you could just chalk that up to the tart’s “rustic” nature. As long as you build it to nurture your family and/or friends you’ll absolutely love it.
- ¾ cup / 114 g All-purpose flour
- ½ cup / 60 g Dark rye flour
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 6 Tablespoons / 85 g Unsalted butter, very cold, and cut into 12 slices
- 2 Tablespoons Whole milk, heavy cream, or half and half
- 1 Tablespoon Apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Cold water
- Tomato, Zucchini, Roasted Garlic:
- 1 head Garlic
- 2 Tablespoons Olive oil, divided
- 4 small Tomatoes, sliced ¼-1/2 inch thick
- 1 medium Zucchini, sliced ¼-1/2 inch thick
- 2 Tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped. (A mixture of thyme and basil is my favorite combination.)
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 Large eggs
- ¼ cup / 60 mL Heavy Cream
- ¼ cup / 10 g freshly grated Asiago cheese (any hard cheese will work)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
- For the Roasted Garlic:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice off the top of a small head of garlic and ensure all of the cloves are exposed (see photo for details). Place the topless head of garlic on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle the garlic with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Wrap the foil tightly around the garlic. Roast for 1 hour. Allow to cool. Begin making the crust while the garlic is roasting.
- For the Crust:
- Combine milk, cider vinegar, and water in a small bowl. Place the liquid ingredients in the refrigerator.
- Mix the flours and salt together in a medium bowl. Add sliced butter and using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, incorporate the butter until the mixture is crumbly and several pieces of butter, slightly larger than peas, remain. Stir in the refrigerated liquid ingredients with wooden spoon just until most of the loose flour is incorporated. At this point the mixture will appear very dry and you'll probably think I'm leading you astray.
- Dump the dough mess onto a lightly floured pieces of parchment paper and, using your palms, quickly pat it into a rough 8 inch x 8 inch square. Fold the square into thirds like you would a trifold brochure. Again, it will be very crumbly, but do your best and keep patching it back together. Flatten the rectangle slightly with your palms, rotate the parchment paper 180 degrees and repeat the folding process once more. The dough should now be a smaller and slightly less crumbly square (see photo for details). Wrap the dough in the piece of parchment paper and place it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes. During its rest in the refrigerator, the liquid ingredients will continue to hydrate the dry ingredients and the dough will be much easier to work with.
- After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the refrigerator and using a rolling pin, roll the dough on the parchment paper into a rough 11 inch diameter circle. Transfer the dough to the well greased tart pan. Fold excess dough into the sides of pan so the sides are thicker than the bottom. If you're not a crust lover, you could simply trim the excess dough and save it for another use. Using a fork, poke several holes into the bottom of the crust to prevent it from puffing up in the oven. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This is necessary to keep the butter cold so the crust bakes up light and flaky.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Slice zucchini and arrange the slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes. The zucchini can roast while the crust bakes.
- After the dough has chilled, place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Use a piece of parchment paper to cover the entire crust and fill it with pie weights, dried beans, or dry rice. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove parchment and weights and bake for 10 more minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F. Allow the crust to cool for at least 5 minutes before assembling the tart.
- While the zucchini and crust are in the oven, slice the tomatoes, remove garlic cloves from the head of garlic, and make the custard.
- To remove the individual cloves, gently squeeze the head of garlic while holding it upside down over a bowl. The garlic will easily release. Mash the garlic with the back of a large spoon to form a paste.
- For the Custard:
- Gently whisk the eggs, heavy cream, grated cheese, chopped herbs, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
- To assemble:
- Rub the caramelized garlic paste over the bottom of the crust with your fingers. Arrange tomato and zucchini slices in an overlapping alternating pattern around the edge of the tart and then work your way to the center (see photo for details). Pour custard over the top. Bake on a baking sheet for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the top is lightly golden-brown and the custard is set.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
This tart keeps really well for a couple of days in the refrigerator.
To reheat, bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes.