Soul-Searching Saturday with a Savory Summer Squash Tart

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Deny, deny, deny. That is what I was thinking as a I trudged up a hill during my run last night. Deny this feels bad. Do not even think about this misery. It didn’t work. I stopped and walked.

Denial has been on my mind all week. Not so much the denial of hard and fast realities that demand attention (i.e. big hills on a run and paying the bills), but the potential experiences I have denied myself by putting imaginary obstacles in my way. I’ve traced this thought train back to its station - a Catfish episode (I know, I know I just mentioned the show) - that moved along the tracks after I learned something equal parts happy and sad, took a risk, and learned some more.

Allow me to indulge by talking about the show for a moment. The opportunity to watch deeply personal situations in strangers’ lives play out on television (with a healthy dose of editing, I’m sure) has, somewhat surprisingly, given me an objective viewpoint to realize the little things I think are of huge importance might not really matter all that much to the people who care about me. Or who would maybe care about me a little more if I actually gave them that opportunity.

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You see, there was this girl who really wanted to meet this boy. He said he wanted to meet her too but then never did anything about it. This went on for 10(!) years. With a little help from the digital-love-age’s Batman & Robin – Catfish show hosts Nev & Max – the boy responded to the ultimatum that it was now or never to meet this chick.

My first thought when I saw the boy come out of the house was, “whoa, he’s big.” The kid was overweight. Big time. And he knew it. It was one of the first things he called attention to. “Hey, look at me, I’m huge.” He didn’t want to meet this girl that he really liked because he was disappointed in himself, and he didn’t want to disappoint her too. It was sad.

Let’s start again. Same character profile. Girl wants to meet boy. He says he wants to meet her too but makes excuses that go on for years (only eight(!) this time). Nev & Max put the smack down, and boy agrees to meet girl.

His issue? Money. He did not have enough or thought he did not have enough or some combination of the two. She didn’t really seem to care. Hmm.

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Are these two stories exceptions? Yes. Most often people lie through their teeth and then claim they never meant to hurt anyone. Um, come on, what did you think was going to happen? That you were going to get a hug and a kiss for your ability to play pretend? That’s some big time denial.

As for me, I am just looking to get out of my own way for once. Should it matter that the balance in my bank account is not quite as high as I might like? Or that the number on the scale is actually a little higher than I’m used too right now? If only I could swap those trends…

Those things matter to me, but I’m starting to realize that a spirit of being honest and genuine might balance those other things out. Maybe. Hopefully.

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I imagine the only thing you are looking to get out of the way is the abundance of summer squash that pops up this time of year. This summer squash, ricotta and lemon thyme is a good place to start. It is an easy dish to pull together with a lemon flavor that really shines through.

I opted to use a sheet of puff pastry I had leftover from the Carrot & Goat Cheese Quiche as the crust, though I think the traditional crust called for in the original recipe might be a better option. Its firmer texture would compliment the soft cheese and squash a bit better than the light, flaky pastry crust. The high temperature (and the use of puff pastry) might warrant a little extra attention to the baking time if your oven is as finicky as mine. If the edges and top of the crust are golden in 15 instead of 20 minutes, by all means take it out of the oven.

My one beef with the recipe is that it calls for five ounces of ricotta cheese. The idea is to use homemade ricotta, but those who wish to purchase their cheese will probably only find it in 15 ounce containers. I suggest using the five ounces requirement as a guide more so than a hard and fast rule. As long as you spread a decent layer of cheese along the bottom of the crust, all will be well.

In need of other ideas? Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla has posted a  sensational summer squash round-up of  20+ recipes. There are plenty of savory recipes and a few sweet ones to choose from, so there’s no need to go hungry this weekend. Enjoy!

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Summer Squash, Ricotta & Lemon Thyme Tart
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 5 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 medium to large summer squash, thinly sliced (I used a combination of both yellow squash and zucchini)
  • olive oil
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • 4 sprigs fresh (lemon) thyme
  • ¼ cup shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  1. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the puff pastry to fit a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Press the dough along the bottom and up the sides to form a crust, and trim any extra dough from the edges.
  3. Stir the lemon zest into the ricotta cheese, then spread the cheese mixture on top of the puff pastry crust.
  4. Arrange the squash slices on top of the cheese in a circular pattern, overlapping the edges a bit.
  5. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and sprinkle on the paprika.
  6. Strip the leaves from the thyme stems and sprinkle them over the tart as well.
  7. Now scatter the shredded cheese over the top of the tart.
  8. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes until the edges and top are golden.
To make a whole-wheat pastry crust:
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour, plus additional for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1, ½ cup stick cold butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons ice water

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a medium bowl. Rub in the pieces of butter to form a crumbly mixture that resembles sand when incorporated. Sprinkle the cold water over the mixture and stir with a fork until it forms into a ball. Press the dough into the tart pan just like you would a sheet of puff pastry.


Carrot & Goat Cheese Quiche

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There are also some granny smith apple and  onion slices in there, but I thought I’d try to keep this one down to a two-ingredient title. It’s also supposed to be a pie, but I baked it up in a tart pan and called it a quiche. I love the freedom of cooking.

When I set out to make this dish, I did not anticipate it would turn out as delicious as it did. In hindsight, this was probably a mistake given goat cheese and puff pastry were involved. It is hard to go wrong with either of those ingredients in my book.

I can certainly say this quiche/tart/pie was not something I expected to add to my regular recipe rotation, but it turned out so well  that I probably will. With variations, of course. Next time I’m thinking spinach, red peppers and mushrooms in place of the onions, apples and carrots.

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As far as preparation goes, if you do not have a juicer or the amount of carrots you  bought turn out not to yield the required half cup of juice (hmm, how would I know that?), simply substitute vegetable stock or a similar flavorful liquid. Since creme fraiche is neither all that easy to find in the store nor something you can whip up in under eight to 12 hours, sour cream will work just fine.

I was also grateful for my OXO hand-held mandoline that made quick work of slicing the onion and apple. And in case you are wondering, I used both orange and white carrots which I found at my local farmer’s market.

The quiche is best served when warm and fresh out of the oven, but leftovers make for a breakfast delicious enough to give cold pizza a run for its money. Win-win. Enjoy!

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Carrot & Goat Cheese Quiche
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 8 carrots (give or take, plus additional if juicing)
  • 1 small to medium onion
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • ½ cup crème fraiche* or sour cream**
  • ½ cup carrot juice* or vegetable stock**
  • 3 large eggs
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Roll out the puff pastry across a well-floured counter so it will fit along the bottom of and up the edges of a 9-inch tart or pie pan.
  2. Layer the puff pastry in the lightly greased or buttered pan, then trim the excess from the edges.
  3. Use a fork to prick holes along the bottom of the crust, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. While the crust chills, peel the carrots and bring them to a boil in a pot of salted water. Allow to cook until just tender, about 8 minutes.
  5. Drain and rinse under cold water, then halve lengthwise and set aside.
  6. Very thinly slice the onion and apple (peel the apple before slicing if desired) and arrange in layers over the bottom of the crust. You can make a layer of each or mix them together in multiple layers.
  7. Next arrange the carrots in a spoke-like pattern on top of the onions/apples.
  8. Crumble the goat cheese along the top of the onions/apples and in between the carrots.
  9. In a medium bowl, whisk together the crème fraiche or sour cream, carrot juice or vegetable stock and eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Gently pour this mixture over the fruit, vegetables and cheese in the tart shell.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 35 minutes or until the center is set and the top is lightly browned.
*original ingredient ** adapted ingredient In case you do not have a kitchen scale, goat cheese is sold in 4 ounce logs.


Not Quite a Cookie: Samoa Tart

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Do you have a favorite Girl Scout Cookie? If I were stranded on a deserted island, I would want a case of Samoas to wash up on shore. Thin Mints and Tag-A-Longs would put a smile on my face, but Samoas would temporarily make me forget my dire circumstances alone on that island.

Samoas have not always been my favorite. As a little girl, I loved Do-Si-Dos simply because the little dot of peanut butter on the top sandwich cookie reminded me of a tiny belly button. The resemblance made me giggle. And whenever I laugh, I tend to really like something.

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What are these cookies I just mentioned called in your area? South Carolina cookies are called Caramel deLites (Samoas), Peanut Butter Patties (Tag-A-Longs) and Peanut Butter Sandwich (Tag-A-Longs). Those names may seem like little more than trivia until you ask a South Carolina girl scout for a box of Samoas. The response you receive will be one of puzzlement, not a box of cookies. I recommend forgetting the names altogether and asking for the cookies in the purple box.

This Samoa Tart does not have quite the same taste as a traditional Samoa cookie, but it is delicious nonetheless. Coconut haters can still find some usefulness from this recipe as the crust is easy to make and tastes quite good (as far as crusts are concerned). For another idea on what to do with Dulce de Coco, try these Snickerdoodles.

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In addition to this tart, I have another special treat for you. As I was writing this post, I thought up the second joke I have ever come up with on my own. Those people who know me personally just closed their browser windows. But for the rest of you unknowing souls, I leave you with this:

What do you call an island when a case of cookies washes up on shore? A desserted island!

Now, please do not desert my blog because I have a corny sense of humor. Enjoy!

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Samoa Tart
  • For the Crust
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Dulce de Coco
  • 1 – 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • To Complete the Filling
  • 1¾ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • For the Ganache
  • ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  1. Whisk together the flours, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Next whisk together canola oil, milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix a few strokes until the dough comes together into a ball.
  4. Press the crust into a lightly greased tart pan with a removable bottom. It may seem as though there is not enough to go around, but it will fit if you keep working at it.
  5. Use a fork to poke holes across the bottom of the crust.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  7. While the crust bakes, start the dulce de coco. (This step can also be completed in advance).
  8. Combine the coconut milk, brown sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  9. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium.
  10. Cover the saucepan and allow the mixture to continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  11. Reduce the heat to low, uncover and allow to continue to simmer for 35-40 additional minutes, stirring occasionally.
  12. When the mixture is thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  13. Once the dulce de coco has cooled so it is merely warm to the touch, stir in the coconut, milk and salt.
  14. Pour the incorporated mixture into the cooled crust and spread until even distributed.
  15. To finish the tart, melt the chocolate chips and oil over low heat, stirring until smooth.
  16. Drizzle the chocolate and enjoy.
If you make the dulce de coco in advance, store it in the refrigerator. Then heat it in the microwave for 15-30 seconds just to soften it a bit.