Why It Works
- Salting, draining, pressing, and blotting the zucchini will eliminate any excess moisture, which would produce a watery tart.
- Docking the puff pastry with a fork and weighing it down with a sheet pan gets rids of air pockets and keeps the pastry slim and crisp.
When zucchini is at its peak, this crisp, creamy tart on buttery puff pastry with tangy cream cheese and milky mozzarella is what I want to eat.
I tested two versions of this tart: one where the puff pastry was fully baked first and then topped with raw, sliced zucchini, and another where the pastry was par-baked, topped with zucchini, and baked a second time. The second tart was superior in every way. Its zucchini slices had a supple texture and a concentrated, robust flavor, and it was also easier to eat—the first tart was awkward to maneuver, and a lot of zucchini slices ended up on my plate (and the floor).
It's important to cut the zucchini into uniformly thin slices so they bake evenly, I use a mandoline, but you can just as easily use a sharp chef's knife to get the job done. Once you have your zucchini sliced up, I call for salting it and draining off any liquid the slices release, which helps to prevent the baked tart from becoming watery.
For the pastry, I’m fond of using frozen store-bought puff pastry. It's convenient, it saves you a lot of time, and it provides the flakiness and rich butter flavor you want in this kind of tart. When it’s time to bake, I follow Sohla's method for blind baking puff pastry—you dock rolled out, thawed puff pastry with a fork, cover it with parchment paper, and weigh it down with a baking sheet—since it produces a flat, ultra-crispy crust.
Once the pastry is par-baked, I turn to making the creamy topping made from softened cream cheese blended with Dijon mustard, thyme, and garlic (which is optional, but it adds a savory punch). Hold off on using this flavorful mixture until the pastry is completely cool, otherwise it’ll turn into a runny mess.
Shingling the zucchini on top requires a little patience, but it doesn't have to be perfect, and if there are any slices left over just carefully tuck them into the rows you’ve arranged. A second trip to the oven results in a beautiful, deeply browned tart, and once you've sprinkled it with fresh thyme leaves and lemon zest, you can serve it as an appetizer or, if you serve it with a salad, as a light entrée.
- 1 1/4 pounds (570g) zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini), cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
- 1 1/4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (1 full box), thawed until pliable but cool
- 4 ounces (115g) full-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon (15g) Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus additional leaves for garnish
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced (optional)
- 4 ounces (115g) shredded low-moisture mozzarella (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. In a colander set over a large bowl, toss the zucchini with salt. Let drain for 30 minutes.
Press zucchini firmly with a rubber spatula to squeeze out moisture. Transfer zucchini to prepared baking sheet and spread evenly over towels; discard accumulated liquid in bowl, and wipe out bowl. Use additional paper towels or a second clean kitchen towel to blot zucchini, ridding them of as much excess moisture as possible. Return zucchini to now-empty bowl and set aside. Discard paper towels used to line rimmed baking sheet; line now-empty baking sheet with parchment.
On a lightly floured surface, place one sheet of puff pastry directly on top of the other. Using a rolling pin, roll pastry into a 11- by 15-inch rectangle. Transfer pastry to prepared baking sheet. Poke pastry all over with a fork. Cover the pastry with a sheet of parchment and place another rimmed baking sheet on top. Bake until pastry is pale and firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove the top baking sheet and parchment. Increase oven temperature to 500°F (260°C).
In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, Dijon mustard, thyme, and garlic (if using) and stir together until well combined. Using an offset spatula, spread cream cheese mixture in an even layer over puff pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella.
Add olive oil to bowl with reserved zucchini, and toss to coat. Shingle zucchini in even rows over the mozzarella, and sprinkle with pepper.
Bake tart until zucchini is tender and puff pastry is crisp and deeply browned at the edges, about 20 minutes.
Garnish tart with thyme leaves and lemon zest. Cut into portions and serve immediately.
It’s best to use medium zucchini that are similar in size and shape.
Make-ahead and Storage
This tart is best eaten immediately.
The cream cheese mixture can be made ahead of time. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.