Is that enough hyphens for one sentence?
Actually, I make a version of this all year-round for my cancer nutrition classes. Sometimes with asparagus, sometimes with hummus (!) instead of cheese; occasionally I go a bit bolder and layer it up – almost too heavily so that it bends if you dare pick it up rather than knife and fork it – with roasted winter vegetables. Whichever way I make it, there is never any left. It seems almost everyone loves a bit of pastry. I serve it with loads of salads to counteract the fact that we are having pastry.
My only chance to get in look in myself is to make one at home. One for each of us so that there is no eyeing up who has the biggest piece. I grew up with a sister so fairness and equity in slices and spoonings is very important.
At this time of year the topping has to be zucchini. Or courgettes, if you prefer. Yellow or green, these mild but very delicious fruits (it’s the seeds that define) are incredibly versatile, and all parts are edible. Heck, even the blowsy flowers are useful – and tasty. Although not quite a super-star like most green vegetables, yellow summer squash are packed with beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin – antioxidant powerhouses. And all varieties are great for vitamin C, copper (great for skin), manganese, magnesium and of course, fibre. At this time of year you should be able to get more than just the green, supermarket, variety so do try to find them at a farmer’s market, or ask your veg box supplier if they have any. The taste is often almost buttery, so they are also just lovely steamed and served as they come. Look out for the buds and flowers too.
As for the chard, we love it and grow it, so it goes in lots of our summer dishes. But if it is hard to find where you are, just leave it out, wilting and squeezing dry some fresh spinach instead.
Zucchini and Chard Tarts – Two Ways
Feel free to use chard stems, leaves, or both in these simple and really rather lovely individual tarts. As for the cheese, sub with cashew cheese, adding nutritional yeast and lemon zest for oomph; use all ricotta if you can’t get (or don’t want to get) the quark. I like the way quark – fat-free soft cheese – lends a nice lactic note to the taste, but it isn’t necessary. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled. As for serving, half of one might suffice for smaller appetites and for children.
1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
1 small egg or vegan egg substitute (for brushing on pastry)
80g (2.8 oz) ricotta cheese
40g (1.4 oz) quark cheese*
1 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided use (I use smoked olive oil from M&S)
2 -3 chard leaves or stems from about 8, finely shredded or sliced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp chopped oregano or thyme, plus any flowers
1 small yellow zucchini/summer squash, sliced into thin rounds
1 small green zucchini/courgette, sliced into thin rounds
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional: 50g blue cheese of choice (I get Vegetarian Society-approved Bishop Cropwell, Blue Vinney or Cashel Blue); truffle honey (I get mine from M&S); pine nuts; extra oregano or thyme; lemon zest
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Line a baking tray with parchment/wax paper.
2. Use a cereal bowl or similar to cut two disks from the pastry sheet. Take a slightly smaller bowl – or do this ‘by eye’ – and lightly score a border. Don’t go all the way through. Prick each disk all over with a fork – this stops it from billowing up and moving the topping. Brush the edges with the beaten egg; place in the refrigerator for the time being.
4. Now, you have a couple of options. For one version of the tart I mixed the ricotta with the blue cheese and some lemon zest – about 1 tsp – and spread it over both pastry disks. I then divided the warm chard between the two and laid on courgette/zucchini slices and sprinkled on the pine nuts. For the other, I mixed the cooked chard stems with the ricotta and quark, seasoned it generously with salt and pepper, spread it on the pastry and made a concentric pattern with the zucchini slices. Your call. My family liked the blue cheese version, but I preferred the more subtle charms of the one without. For both tarts, brush the zucchini with the remaining oil.
Serve with salads and – if you like – roasted peppers. We like the “Russian roulette” peppers – Padron. Apparently every thirtieth pepper is crazy-hot. I got two eye-wateringly hot peppers of my eight…
* labneh, fromage frais, farmer’s cheese or queso fresco can all be used instead of quark, although each is slightly different in taste and thickness.