Who knows what lurks beneath the leaves of the summer squash?
In what would become a sequence of unfortunate events, I decided to introduce the little boy to my favorite scary movie: 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
It’s a family tradition. My dad introduced my brother and me to the classic scary tales (Invasion, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Dracula, Frankenstein). My brother continues the tradition with his kids, leaning toward quintessential Hitchcock (Psycho, The Birds). I’ve stayed pretty true to the oldies but have also brought in some 1970s doozies (Jaws).
Anyway, the youngest and I decided to watch Invasion one afternoon. We popped popcorn, then curled up on the sofa as giant pods invaded a small town and took over its citizens.
After the movie, I went out to the garden to pick zucchini and squash for dinner.
Stepping through a labyrinth of upturned squash stems, I lifted a giant leaf and peered underneath.There, lying on the ground was the biggest zucchini I’d ever seen. I mean, I actually yelped when I saw it. I hauled it up, took it inside, then weighed (10 pounds!) and measured (2 feet!) the thing.
“Look at this!” I said breathlessly, carrying the giant zucchini into the family room where the little one lolled.
He turned white.
“It looks like a pod person,” he whispered.
That was two years ago. The little one hasn’t put a squash in his mouth since.
Lord knows I’ve tried. I’ve deep-fried them, shaved them into crisp salads, laid them down in place of lasagna noodles and coated them in breadcrumbs and cheese. I’ve broiled them to smoky goodness, then mashed them with all matter of spices. I’ve grated them into breads and measured them into chocolate cakes.
And still the little one grows ashen at the mention of summer squash for dinner.
“They’re not really my favorite,” he says. Then whispers: “Do you remember the one that looked like a pod person?”
Tonight, I’m trying this tart: A cheesy, eggy concoction surrounded by a flaky puff pastry. The tart is filled with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, fresh garden herbs, a handful of slivered sun-dried tomatoes and very, very, very thin rounds of summer squash (which are multiplying like alien invaders in the backyard). The eggs and cheese are the main players; heck, the squash is almost an afterthought.
Will it be enough to erase the memory of the pod people? I’ll let you know.
(I better never show my son Alien. We’d never eat pasta again.)
Zucchini, Sun-Dried Tomato & Mozzarella Tart (Bon Appetit)
Make this with zucchini or yellow squash and feel free to mix up the herbs.
- 1 to 1 1/3 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- 6 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and cut into slivers
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced basil
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 small zucchini, cut into thin rounds
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup half and half
Roll out 1 sheet of pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round. Fit into a greased 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, filling in any empty spaces with the additional third of a sheet. (Roll it thin before you do any patchwork.) Fold the edges under to make the tart’s sides about 1/4 of an inch thick. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork, then chill the crust for an hour.
Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line the crust with foil, then fill the foil with beans or pie weights. Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake it for 20 minutes.
Remove the foil and beans. Press the crust down with the back of a fork if it’s puffing up. Bake for another 4 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes or until you’re ready to finish the dish.
Reduce the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the crust with mozzarella, then layer on the 6 tablespoons of Parmesan, the tomatoes, the basil, the green onions and the oregano. Arrange the zucchini on top of everything.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and half and half together. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
Bake until the custard is set and the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes. (Check after 20 minutes … baking times will vary from oven to oven.)
Serve warm or at room temperature.