Yesterday we made a garden pie. A bright yellow parmesan & basil shortcrust topped with caramelized shallots and a long green spiral of zucchini, punctuated with toasted pine nuts. The kind of pie that manages to make you feel healthy for days while being unbearably good. From the first whiff of those sizzling shallots, we got in the cooking zone. By that I mean the feeling I get when I’m progressively hungrier as I cook and just take in all of the odors and colors in anticipation of the meal I’m about to put in my belly.
Naturally this leads to singing. Cooking goes so well with music because your hands are busy, but the part of your brain that takes care of music is at liberty to listen and hum along. Nothing to do with getting bogged down while multitasking on a computer. On the contrary, it probably helps with the creative act of home cooking, inspiring you and putting you in the right mood to make a delicious meal.
That morning, the sky was brightening up and our moods soared in anticipation of another indian summer day. Without even thinking, I doodled a bit on the piano and began singing one of the songs from a French movie we love, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. There are too many great things about this 60’s musical film: bright colors, feel-good songs, poetic lyrics, witty characters who constantly sing and dance, the setting in a small southern French town in the 60’s…
We actually got obsessed with that movie to a point I didn’t think was possible. I don’t know if it’s the pure brilliance of the dialogues and music, the transcendental beauty of Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly, the great mood in which we already were when I saw it for the first time at a local Cinéclub reunion, or what combination of factors resulted in this, but it has been over six months now and we are still going around the house, the car, the supermarket and the woods, singing and humming the themes from this movie, especially when we cook.
One unforgettable scene is when Maxence, a sailor in the navy (who also happens to be a handsome painter, of course), sits at the counter of an art deco café in the middle of the city square, and sings about searching all over the world for his idéal féminin — his feminine “Ideal” — and not finding it but knowing that such a woman must exist. The intensity of his song takes over the whole café, including the regulars who stop what they are doing and join him in a choir. The café turns into a secular temple, music fills the room like in a cathedral echoing off the walls and transforming that moment into a spiritual one in an otherwise mundane, everyday place.
So yesterday while I was playing, Adélaïde rummaged through our fridge and pantry and laid out a bunch of ingredients on the table. A colorful, delicious vegetable pie was to be made. I like to think that the music inspired us and that the pie looks and tastes like Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. At least, that’s what we sang and had in mind as we chopped, mixed, kneaded, stirred, baked, ate and enjoyed.
Parmesan & basil shortcrust zucchini garden pie | Serves 6
The parmesan & basil crust:
- 200g all-purpose flour
- 100g salted butter, diced
- 25g duck fat (or butter)
- 20g egg yolk (1 egg)
- 30g milk
- 50g parmesan cheese, grated
- a few basil leaves, finely chopped
- On a clean work surface, directly sift the flour and add the diced butter & duck fat, the grated parmesan cheese and chopped basil. Sweep up and gather the ingredients in your hands, gently rubbing them against each other until the butter and duck fat are integrated into the flour. The blend should look like rough sand and turn into a rich yellow color. This sablage should take a few minutes.
- Form a well and add in the beaten egg and milk. In circles, rub the liquids into the flour/butter blend until it forms a homogenous dough. The crust should be smooth. Knead as little as possible. Shape into a ball and flatten it down a little so it’ll be easier to roll out. Wrap in film and refrigerate for at least an hour. You can even start by putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Note: if you have a stand mixer, you can sift the flour and add the chopped butter, duck fat, parmesan cheese & chopped basil directly in the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed with the paddle until the blend gets the desired consistency. Then add in the egg & milk and keep beating until it starts forming a ball. Finish smoothing out by hand, shape into a ball and flatten it down. Wrap in film and refrigerate.
- 2-3 large zucchinis, thinly sliced
- 4 shallots, peeled and thinly chopped
- 1 tsp honey
- a few basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- balsamic glaze
- fleur de sel & black pepper
- olive oil
- Once the crust has rested, dust your work surface with a thin and even layer of flour. Roll out the crust into a circle until it is app. 3mm thick. Make sure the crust doesn’t stick by rotating it regularly by a quarter of a turn. Line an app. 27cm buttered baking pan & poke holes with a fork. Put in the freezer for 30 min.
- In a pan, heat up some olive oil and sweat the chopped shallots until soft. Season to taste, add the honey and keep cooking until lightly colored. Reserve until cold.
- Wash the unpeeled zucchinis. Slice them very thinly, ideally using a mandoline slicer. Keep one of the zucchini tips to decorate the center of your tart.
- When the crust is ready, cover with an even layer of shallots. Then, lay out the zucchini slices in a snail shape, starting by the outside part of the tart and going inwards in circles. If necessary, cut the slices into smaller pieces when you reach the center of your spiral. Place the zucchini tip you set aside earlier at the center.
- Season with fleur de sel & black pepper. Sprinkle with pine nuts and the chopped basil. Drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic glaze.
- Bake for app. 40 min in a preheated oven at 170°C, or until the zucchini is soft (or still a little crunchy depending on your taste) and the crust baked throughout.