Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Smoky Zucchini Mascarpone Tart

James beard once said that "a gourmet who counts calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." Well, James, I couldn't have said it better myself. I wish I could say that this was the explanation for my tart fixation recently, but really I didn't come across this saying until after both this tart and last week's nectarine, cheesecake, gingersnap tart were long gone. I love tarts, the kind you eat of course, because they are a generally simple way to make a dish a little more exciting and pretty. They look refined, finished and composed, and an onlooker might believe that much time and effort was put into it when really, it was a snap.
zucchini mascarpone tart
Oddly enough, this dish was not created by the abundance of summer squash at every turn, but rather by an old bag of spelt flour I had in my fridge. After organizing my fridge for the umpteenth time the other day (yes, I can be a wee bit obsessive about certain things) I decided that the flour had been neglected for far too long and deserved some time to showcase itself. Well, if I may say, the spelt performed wonderfully, resulting in a crumbly and nutty tasting crust that was the perfect accompaniment to the sweet zucchini and creamy mascarpone. The smokiness comes from applewood smoked salt, an ingredient acquired thanks to a tartier moment, but I'll save that story for a later time.
zucchini mascarpone tart
That smokiness paired with the pungent aroma of the chives is what makes this tart anything other than usual. However, those flavors are not so overwhelming that they detract from the summer squash whose oh-so-sweet and buttery nature is just as good raw as it is enrobed in mascarpone. The latter, of course, is quite obvious. I mean I am pretty sure that if my middle name were 'enrobed in mascarpone' people would probably like me more too. I digress, the point is that this tart, like many tarts (or so I've heard) is very good, satisfying, and will last at least an evening if not longer. If you have a mandoline or a benriner slicer* its also very easy (as most tarts are known to be). Most importantly anyone you serve it to will think that you are a refined, culinary genius, truly anything but a tart; but if only they knew where that smoky salt came from....
spelt pie crust
*$20, buy it now, you won't regret it and no they didn't pay me to say that.
Smoky Zucchini Masparpone Tart
(yields 1, 9-inch tart)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons spelt flour

3 medium sized zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick or any summer squash will do.
1 small onion, shaved in rounds
2 eggs
3/4 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 teaspoons smoked salt
a few turns of a pepper grinder

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the crust by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl and pressing into a 9-inch tart pan. Bake for 9 minutes, until golden. Let cool completely and keep the oven on.
2) In a blender combine the eggs, mascarpone, chives, salt and pepper. Blend until combined.
3) Lay the zucchini slices in concentric circles in the prepared tart shell, there should be enough for about two layers. Pour the filling evenly over the zucchini. Top with the onions.
4) Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the onions are soft and the top is golden. The filling should be firm to the touch and slightly puffed up. Let cool.
5) Serve a room temperature. This tart should be good for a few days in the fridge, bring to room temperature before serving.