I was somewhat captivated by this picture of Zucchini and goat's cheese tartlets in the latest Coles Magazine. Well as you know by now I'm a bit of a sucker for pretty looking things. So I was determined to write something about them. But what? I mean what is there to say other than that they are pretty? I confess I was a bit confused by the recipe though, which didn't sound as if it would produce something looking like this, but now that I think about it is probably just that I hadn't thought that the zucchini would be wider than the pastry strips. It's a very simple recipe you make with puff pastry strips lined with zucchini and goat's cheese, folded over and then rolled up and put in muffin pans, vertically, before cooking.
I did wonder whether they would taste all that good. I mean zucchini is a pretty bland vegetable isn't it? Which like chicken, also bland, makes it wonderful for combining with all manner of other things. But goat's cheese. I'm not a real big fan of goat's cheese either, but I guess you could use whatever cheese you like. Indeed the concept of rolling something up in puff pastry like this could be extended to all manner of other things - tomatoes, ham, pumpkin ...
Anyway I looked for the actual recipe online so that I wouldn't have to scan the photograph, and found, of course, dozens of different recipes for zucchini and goat's cheese tarts of all kinds. Here is just a selection: from left to right and top to bottom - a simpler way of doing it from Taste, one from a site called Barefoot Contessa for some reason, a Donna Hay version which is a sort of quiche in filo pastry, and one from Gourmet Traveller which adds tapenade to the mix.
I ignored the straight quiches, because, much as I love quiche these did not look quite as pretty, and pretty was what I was focussing on here - plus they didn't have the same combination of zucchini and goat's cheese, or goat's curd as Donna Hay more trendily calls it. And I have to say that her quiche does, of course, look pretty. Her food is always pretty. She has an award winning food stylist at her disposal.
I am still a little unconvinced that any of these would actually taste all that wonderful. Delicate might be the complimentary adjective to use. Gourmet Traveller seems to recognise this by adding in the tapenade, and some of the others did add the odd herb or flavouring. They'd be pretty impressive to serve at a dinner party though wouldn't they? If we ever have dinner parties again that is. Or indeed after all of this isolation will we go dinner party mad, having honed our cooking skills in the interim?
But before I leave all of this let me pass on a few more closely related pretty things - and all with zucchini and cheese. First of all the flowers - not the same thing at all I know but these were pretty and in the case of Ottolenghi's Corsican pie with courgette flowers, it was a tart too. (Not a pie - a pie has a lid to my mind.) It didn't have goat's cheese either, but it did have cheese - so you could substitute goat's if you wanted to. And Greg Malouf's Battered zucchini flowers stuffed with goat's cheese, were definitely not a tart - could you pretend that the batter makes it a sort of tart? Not really. Pretty though, and maybe even tastier.
Moving on from batter, delicious had a really interesting sort of leftover recipe for Kaskarikas (zucchini skins and goat's cheese), which sort of takes me back to the original inspiration recipe which was a nibble kind of thing. And now having looked up kaskarikas on the net I see that the delicious version is much prettier, and, I suspect, not very authentic. You could probably do the same thing with just about any other vegetable skin.
I will however finish with what I thought was the prettiest - if not quite the same thing. It's a salad from Greg Malouf - Shaved zucchini with grana, burrata and basil - and, it features burrata rather than goat's cheese. Burrata is rather prettier - well I think so, but you could probably make it look pretty with goat's cheese if you wanted to. Different herb though I think.
I don't think I've answered the question about taste though. I wonder if we sometimes get bamboozled by how beautiful something looks into thinking that it tastes good too. Or does it raise the anticipation level too much?
And although it looks like it's easy to make something as pretty as the dish above, I bet I wouldn't be able to get it all just lie in the right place, with the zucchini curling just so. I've tried it before. Didn't work for me!