Squash blossoms get me more excited than just about any other summer produce. They are not always easy to come by, so maybe the scarcity ups the intrigue. I have a vert good source now though at a local farmers market who keeps me supplied, but I still get giddy every time I see them. Sometimes I even overbuy! Just this past weekend, as I waited for my turn to buy some blossoms, the customer with the farmer said she wasn’t going to buy any blossoms this time because all you can do with them is fry them, and she wasn’t in the mood. The farmer and I simultaneously piped up with “there is so much more you can do with them than fry” and listed off – pesto, compound butter, soup, quesadillas, risotto …and many more (not there is anything wrong with frying). Suffice it to say, I am a bit obsessed with squash blossoms.
With my haul of beautiful fresh blossoms, I planned to make a quiche or frittata, but the wheels started turning and I decided on a simple ricotta tart, almost an inside out version of a classic stuffed squash blossom, with no extraneous fuss. It seemed only right to add some fresh zucchini. Leeks add a boost of mild flavor but don’t overpower the flavor of the blossoms. The flowers are so pretty, I wanted to make the tart a stunner too, so I created this lovely lattice top with the flowers and thin ribbons of zucchini. You don’t have to get so elaborate, you could just lay the flat strips on top, but they do add a lovely flavor. You could slice the zucchini into thin rounds and tile them attractively on the top with petals tucked in.
Squash Blossom and Zucchini Ricotta Tart
Pastry for one 9-inch tart, store bought ready rolled or homemade
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini
9 – 10 squash blossoms
2 cups whole milk ricotta
Salt and pepper
- Use a mandolin to thinly slice one zucchini lengthwise into paper thin strips. Place the slices in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch tart pan with a removable base with the pastry, fitting it nicely into the edges. Prick all over with a fork, then line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with ceramic baking beads or dried beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool completely. Remove the paper and baking beads.
- Slice the remaining zucchini into thin rounds on the mandolin, then slice the leek into thin rounds as well. Pull off the hard green stems and bottoms of the squash blossoms, removing the stamens, the cut four of them into thin ribbons with scissors. The others will be used on the top of the tart.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat then add the sliced leeks and sauté for a minute until they begin to soften. Add the zucchini slices, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and sauté, separating them out, just until they are wilted but not browning. Remove from the heat and stir in the slivered squash blossoms and leave to cool.
- Drain off any liquid in the container with the ricotta. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then add the ricotta and beat until smooth and combined. Stir in the zucchini and leek mixture until evenly distributed, then spread into the cooled pastry, filling the shell and smoothing the top. Pat the zucchini ribbons dry on paper towels, then arrange them in a lattice pattern alternating with strips of squash blossom petals. I lay pieces across in one direction, then weave more slices in the other direction, filling the spaces with blossoms and tucking blossoms around the edges.
- Baked for 45 – 50 minutes until puffed and set and the zucchini is lightly golden. It will be set before it puffs and browns – let it go all the way. Cool slightly then remove the tart ring and serve. Slice with a serrated knife to cleanly cut through the zucchini ribbons.