The football* world cup has just ended (congratulations, Spain!), and although I haven’t breathed a word about it until now — there is such a media overload during the event, you don’t need me adding to it — we followed the competition with an enthusiasm that wasn’t dampened by the magnitude of the French fiasco.
Some games we watched from bars, others from home, and it was our great pleasure then to invite friends over to join in on the fun. And naturally, because these evening games were played right around dinnertime — continental Europe and South Africa conveniently share the same time zone in the summer — they were perfect opportunities to share no-fuss food that could be eaten casually, between two cries of excitement or disappointment.
This tarte fine (i.e. a thin tart with little or no rim) is one I served during the Germany/Spain semi-final last week: it is a free-form room-temperature tart I assembled on a homemade crust with fresh cheese, mint, and thinly sliced raw zucchini, finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a little fresh thyme from my neighbor’s parents’ garden.
The overall format was inspired by Sonia Ezgulian‘s radish tart, as featured on Cécile Cau’s blog: hers involves a pâte brisée made with fennel seeds and filled with a mix of fromage blanc (a sort of yogurt) and ground almonds, topped with thinly sliced raw pink radishes.
I thought I would transpose the idea to use the sprightly young zucchini we’ve been getting lately, and the crust I used in mine was an experiment, as I wanted to try and make a short crust pastry using yogurt.
I had long ago bookmarked several online mentions of a puff pastry-like dough made with petits suisses, for which you combine these little unsalted fresh cheeses with flour and butter in a 2:2:1 weight ratio (unless you use the 1:2:1 ratio others recommend), and thought it was finally time to give it a try.
There were no petits suisses in my fridge, but yogurt I did have, so I planned to use that. And the ratio didn’t seem quite right to me — I worried the dough would be too moist, and the fact that two different ratios were said to work equally well did nothing to reassure me — so I improvised my own, combining flour, yogurt and butter in a 3:2:1 ratio instead (here, 180 grams flour, 120 grams yogurt, 60 grams butter, plus a little salt).
That crust was a complete success: it was quick to assemble, easy to roll out, and it baked into a deep golden, crisp and flaky crust that supported the tangy fresh cheese filling and the sweet zucchini slices beautifully.
We liked this refreshing summer tart so much I made another, identical one later that week, and used that same dough recipe for the Swiss chard quiche my mother, sister and I baked at my parents’ mountain house over the weekend, before we all went into town to watch the Netherlands/Spain final.
I now intend to try and make a sweet version of that crust, probably very soon, and probably for a rhubarb tart using the gorgeous garden rhubarb I brought back with me.
* Maybe you call it soccer; we call it football or just foot, as in “la coupe du monde de foot.”
- 180 grams (6 1/3 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour (I use the French T65)
- 120 grams (1/2 cup) plain yogurt, not from skim milk
- 60 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cold, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 120 grams (1/2 cup) fresh cheese (I used fresh goat cheese; you could also use ricotta)
- a dash of milk
- a dozen fresh mint leaves
- 2 medium and very fresh yellow zucchini, about 280 grams (10 ounces) total
- fresh thyme
- olive oil
- salt, pepper
- Start by making the dough. Place the flour in a medium mixing bowl. Form a well in the center and spoon in the yogurt, holding the whey if there is any. Add the diced butter and salt, and use a pastry blender (or a sturdy fork, or the tips of your fingers) to combine the ingredients, blending the butter into the flour. Alternatively, you can mix the dough in a food processor, using short pulses.
- When most of the flour is absorbed and you can no longer see pieces of butter in the dough (depending on the specific flour, yogurt and butter you'll use, your dough will be moister or drier than mine; feel free to add a little flour or a few drops of water to get a workable consistency), turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and gather the dough into a ball, kneading it very briefly so it comes together, then flattening it into a thick disk. Place the dough on a plate and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- (If you wish to make it in advance, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in the fridge for up to a day. Let it come back to just below room temperature before rolling out.)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
- Roll the dough out thinly between two sheets of parchment paper to form whatever shape seems easiest -- I like it free-form.
- Remove the top sheet of paper, sprinkle the dough with sesame seeds, place the top sheet back and roll over it with the rolling pin so the sesame seeds will embed themselves in the pastry; this provides flavor and crunch.
- Remove the top sheet of paper and roll the very edges of the dough over themselves to form a small ridge all around. Crimp if desired.
- Transfer the pastry (and bottom sheet of paper) to a baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork, cover with the top sheet of paper, and top with baking beans. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove the top sheet and the baking beans (they will be very hot, obviously) and let the crust cool completely.
- Beat the fresh cheese with a dash of milk to get a creamy consistency. Snip the mint leaves finely and add them to the fresh cheese. Spread all over the crust.
- Trim the zucchini and cut into paper-thin slices with a mandolin (I am very happy with my Japanese mandolin). Spread the zucchini slices out evenly over the fresh cheese without worrying about the pattern. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with good olive oil, and sprinkle with thyme.
- Cut into servings, preferably with a bread knife.
Alternatively, you can use store-bought puff pastry; make sure you get a good one that uses butter as the only source of fat.