Ever since our dear, dear child was born, Stephen and I don’t entertain as much as we might like. There’s the boy’s birthday party, of course, and the cooking I do for my in-laws’ various celebrations, and one very casual Thanksgiving, but other than that it’s usually a last-minute, hey-why-don’t-you-stay-for-dinner kind of thing. No planning, no creativity, just dinner. (We did have a make-your-own pizza party on New Year’s Eve, which I don’t seem to have blogged about.)
This weekend, we had people over. As in: extend an official invitation, set a time, and plan a menu for an old colleague of Stephen’s, her partner, and a pair of adorable twin girls who are just a few months older than Harry. (Hi Rachel! Hi Jane!) They came for brunch, quite a reasonable way to entertain when kids are involved. Since I know Harry can be, um, challenging to feed, I asked if there were any issues to be aware of. The response:
Twin A has nut allergies and doesn’t like bananas.
Twin B is finicky about anything that isn’t candy or rotisserie chicken.
Mom doesn’t like beets, walnuts, goat cheese, and sardines.
Partner eats everything…and anything…whichever comes first.
Easy peasy! It took me about ten minutes to decide what to serve:
- Overnight baked French toast, a riff on the one I made with panettone for Christmas a while back. I knew Harry would like it, and I figured the twins would too.
- Zucchini & herb frittata, a variation on this one with mushrooms, zucchini, and escarole. Sure, the kids’ll hate it, but the adults should have something of their own, don’t you think?
- Bacon. Stephen convinced me to get the good stuff from the farmers’ market. This marks the very first time I’ve attempted real bacon in my own home—usually it’s turkey bacon. Given how many liters of fat drained off, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be making it again. Yuk. (Though Stephen certainly enjoyed the flavor…)
- Rosemary roasted potatoes. Simple, easy, yummy. And I snuck in some of that bacon fat, so they were yummier than usual.
- Fruit salad, provided by our guests along with an amazing mascarpone-based topping.
So what’s with the photo up top? My friends, I broke every rule of entertaining—even some I wrote myself. I woke up yesterday and decided that frittata was boring. Boring to whom? I don’t know, but at 8:30 on Sunday morning, it was boring. I’d attempt a tart instead. Yup, I changed the menu two hours before the guests were due. Basically, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, all the while cursing myself for throwing this monkey wrench—I hadn’t stopped to think about how I’d juggle the various oven times and temps, so the French toast was still baking when our friends arrived. Lucky me, in the end it actually worked! I’m as surprised as you are.
This is a fairly simple tart, and one that’s pretty friendly to parents—it’s easy to break down for Nap-Time Cooking (prep & sauté the vegetables, and par-bake the piecrust in the morning or the night before; later on assemble and bake). You can serve it hot or at room temp, so if your timing’s a bit off that’s just fine. And the result is wonderful, nutty and salty from the cheeses, not too custardy (I’m not a fan of custardy things, you may have noticed), with a light, Spring-like flavor. If you think your kid might like it without the herbs, feel free to leave them out. You can swap in mushrooms for the zucchini, too. See? Flexible. Just what a parent needs.
But do yourself a favor, and plan ahead. Also, stick to the game plan. Spontaneous tart-making when company’s coming does not make for a relaxing pre-party atmosphere.
Weight Watchers: Each serving is 6 PointsPlus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
4 small zucchini, cut into thin half-moons
Salt & pepper
Flour, for rolling
1 prepared piecrust (I use Pillsbury refrigerated—pie dough is my nemesis)
2 egg whites
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9” tart pan with a removable bottom and set aside. (If you don’t have one, you could probably get away with a regular pie pan—just watch the baking time carefully.)
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the shallots and zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- While it’s cooling, par-bake the crust: Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it’s large enough to fill the tart pan and extend over the top by a good half-inch. Use your rolling pin to trim off the excess: roll it across the edges of the pan. Line with parchment paper, and pour in a pound of dried beans, a couple cups of rice, even a pile of pennies. Bake for 15 minutes, until the dough is set and just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place on a baking sheet.
- Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, Gruyere, and herbs, and add the cooled zucchini mixture. Pour it into the tart pan, sprinkle with the Parmesan, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
MAKE BABY FOOD: The zucchini-shallot mixture is swell for pureeing. And the tart itself is fine as-is for slightly older eaters.