August 24, 2015

Zucchini Ricotta Crostada

I love recipes that look gorgeous and fancy but are really extremely easy to make. In other words, I love getting credit for doing things even if it didn't take that much effort. And just imagine--that could be you too! With all these back to school events and book club meetings and garden parties and whatever else happens to fill your social calendar, you're probably going to need some hors d'oeuvres and finger foods. I, however, am one of those people that gets irrationally angry when someone says there will be light appetizers and there are only a few tiny bites. I'm a starving college student; I need my food, ok? Luckily this appetizer is light and refreshing but also pretty satisfying, and it's pretty enough to impress just about anyone.

The name itself is pretty fancy, too. Zucchini ricotta crostada. It has a nice ring to it, and you can impress all your friends (and enemies) with a beautiful free-form tart. The perfectly imperfect folds hide a creamy three-cheese filling and fresh zucchini, which is currently in every farmers' market you can find. It's also possible to find decent zucchini pretty much year round, so when people request this every week after you first serve it you won't have to turn them down.

I use my basic savory pie crust dough since it's buttery, flaky, and perfect. It's an all-butter crust, which gives it flavor and flakiness. You can use some shortening or some lard if you really really want to, but nothing compares to a butter crust. Regardless of your choice in fat, handle the dough as little as possible and keep it cold right up until baking and you'll have an extra flaky base.

The cheese filling is slathered on the crust in a thick, creamy layer of goodness. It's mostly ricotta, which has the right texture and a neutral flavor. I also add in shredded mozzarella for the gooey, stringy factor (every dish could use some gooey cheese) as well as shredded parmesan for flavor. Garlic oil and herbs add some depth, so try to use fresh herbs if you have them on hand.

The final touch is the sliced zucchini, which I salt and let rest for about half an hour before spreading onto the crostada. This step requires minimal effort but prevents the tart from completely falling apart. Salting the zucchini draws out the water and lets it soak into paper towels instead of the cheese filling. If the water from the zucchini bakes into the tart, it makes the whole thing watery and gross. The zucchini only has to sit for a little while before it's dry enough to cook with; you don't want shriveled and dry zucchini, just slightly dehydrated.

The zucchini slices are spread onto the cheese, the edges of the dough are folded up over the outside and brushed with an egg wash so they brown, and the whole thing is baked until golden and gooey. The only thing I can think of that detracts from this otherwise perfect appetizer is that it's impossible to sneak a taste without people knowing you cut into it, so it might be a good idea to bake up a mini taster crostada (or twelve).

1 Recipe Savory Pie Dough (See Below)
1 lb Zucchini, Sliced in ¼" Thick Rounds
1/2 tsp Salt
1 T Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
1/2 Cup Ricotta
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
1/4 tsp Basil
1/4 tsp Oregano
1/4 tsp Thyme
1 Egg Yolk

Spread the zucchini onto a few layers of paper towels and sprinkle with the salt. Top with another layer of paper towels and let sit for 30 minutes.

Combine the oil and garlic. Combine the ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, basil, oregano, thyme, and the garlic oil.

Heat oven to 400F. Line a cookie tray with parchment.

Roll the dough to a 12" round. Transfer to the parchment. Spread the cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 2" border. Shingle the zucchini on top of the cheese and drizzle with remaining garlic oil. Fold the edges of the dough over to cover part of the zucchini.

Combine the egg yolk with 2 tsp water. Brush over the edges of the crust and bake for 30-40 minutes or until zucchini is wilted and the crust is golden brown.

Pie Dough:
1 1/4 Cups Flour
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Chilled & Cubed

Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor to combine. Add the butter and pulse until small lumps remain, then drizzle in cold water until it clumps together. Chill until firm.

Serves 6-8
Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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