We've kinda hit that point in the season where I can't tell anymore if I want to hang onto summer or jump headfirst into fall and my cooking has definitely reflected this, as I swing wildly between entirely summery dishes and more cold weather fare. So today it's kinda fitting that I'm sharing these Zucchini, Cheddar & Tomato Mini-Tarts. Full of garden fresh zucchini and tomatoes, these have that late-summer feel that deliciously bridges the seasonal gap.
They'd be a great addition to any Labor Day celebration!
And even though they look kinda fussy and you're probably thinking "so totally not worth it", I'm here to say that these are actually not at all that hard to make and can even be made a day ahead and reheated a smidge before serving. So um, yes in fact, totally worth it!
You start by making a simple dough in the food processor that includes white and whole wheat flour, as well as some grated cheddar cheese, giving the crust tons of savory flavor and a little more oomph than traditional pastry crusts.
After you've rolled out the dough into a largish rectangle, you cut it into squares and line those dough squares into a muffin tin.
Meanwhile, you make this heavenly roasted mixture of zucchini, cherry tomatoes and honey spiked with a bit of cayenne pepper. Yum! It's hard not to just eat the mixture as is and forget about the tart part!
But force yourself to exercise a bit of restraint and add the ricotta/chive mixture to the little cups, topping it with those irresistible, spicy-honey roasted veggies--
And then a generous shaving of Parmesan cheese
And you'll be rewarded with adorable little appetizers that have layers and layers of flavor--gooey, melted ricotta, tender, sweet/spicy veggies, flaky crust and a crunchy Parmesan topping, that'll leave you both pining for warm lazy days and excited for those crisp, energized autumn ones to come. And that my friends, is a win-win!
Zucchini, Cheddar & Tomato Mini-Tarts
Makes one dozen mini-tarts
Prep Time for the dough: 10 minutes, plus at least 2 hours to chill, plus another 15 minutes or so to roll out, cut into squares and stick into muffin tin; Bake Time for Veggies: About 40-50 minutes; Prep Time for Ricotta Filling: 5 minutes; Assembly Time: 10 minutes; Bake Time for Tarts: 25-30 minutes
For the crust
- 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed and refrigerated until ready
- 3/4 cup (55 grams) Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Up to 6 tablespoons ice water
For the Veggie Filling
- About 2 pounds zucchini (3-4 medium), ends trimmed and cut into small cubes
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1-2 shakes red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey mixed with a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
For the Ricotta filling
- 3/4 cup fresh ricotta
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper
For the topping
- 2-3 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- Finely grated Cheddar (somewhere between 6-8 tablespoons)
1. To make the crust: Pulse together the white and wheat flour and the salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add in the butter and cheddar and pulse until the mixture looks like little peas. Drizzle in the egg and 3 tablespoons water and pulse a few times. Squeeze a bit of the mixture between your fingers. If it holds together, you're done. If not, add one tablespoon water, pulse a couple of times and squeeze again. You just don't want to over mix or the dough will be tough. Turn the dough out onto the counter or a board and form into a ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to one day.
2. While the dough is chilling you can make the veggie filling. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place the zucchini, tomatoes, salt and red pepper flakes onto a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the oil. Spread the mixture into an even layer and roast for 40-50 minutes, tossing every now and then, until the veggies are tender and beginning to caramelize. Remove the pan from the oven. Stir the honey with the cayenne pepper in it and the vinegar into the veggies and let them cool to room temperature.
3. When the dough has chilled, spray a standard muffin tin pan with nonstick spray and set aside. Flour a board or the counter lightly and roll the dough out into a large 12x16-inch rectangle. Trim any scraggly edges and use a ruler to cut four 4-inch strips and then cut those strips into 3 squares, so that you have a total of 12. Fit the squares into each muffin tin, gently pressing down in the center so that the corners of the dough hang over the edges of each well. Chill the dough for 15 minutes.
4. To make the Ricotta filling: Place the ricotta, egg, chives and garlic in a small bowl and whisk together well. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix together again.
5. Equally divide the ricotta mixture among the chilled dough wells. Top with the veggies and fold the overhanging dough corners over the filling. Brush the tarts with the milk and cream and sprinkle with the cheese. Place the tin on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 25-30 minutes, until they are bubbly and golden. Let cool a bit, remove from the tins and serve.
6. You can definitely make these a day ahead. Let them come to room temperature in the tin, cover and chill and then reheat in a low oven before serving.
Note: Recipe adapted from The New York Times by Melissa Clark, 2017. I tinkered a bit with the filling and some of the proportions. You could definitely also use different veggies.