Last month, I spent some time at Gullkistan1, residency for creative people in Laugarvatn, a town in southern Iceland (Islanda) on the shore of this lovely lake:
While there, I read a review2 (recensione) of the memoir The Stones Speak by Icelandic author Þórbergur Þórðarson (Thorbergur Thordarson)3
This is the first book in Þórbergur’s bulk of autobiographical writings dealing with his formative years growing up on a farm on the southern coast of Iceland at the brink of the twentieth century. Þórbergur’s love for his natural surroundings and daily life on the farm is captured in obsessive detail with a humorous and at times absurdist essayistic style, and the communicative authorial presence found in all his writing.
I was intrigued and purchased the book at the bookstore (libreria) Bókakaffið4 in Selfoss.
The translator first introduces the reader to customs described in the book that are unfamiliar to non-Icelandic readers. Whether you have visited Iceland or not, you can immerse yourself in the detailed descriptions of life in the farm, of the inner life of a boy growing up in a fairly intense environment (northern climate, relative isolation) as he finds his place in a world that is a blend of concrete daily physical tasks and intangible presences. Such life is not always idyllic, which is something I appreciate about the book: the author captures the sense of wonder he experienced as a child, but considers some of his experiences through the lens of his maturity.
Storytelling is important in Iceland: there is a story behind almost everything you see or experience, usually going back hundreds of years, all the way to the Vikings. I love the sense of history people have and their readiness in sharing stories. So, back to the US, I loved the kind of continuation of that experience I got from reading The Stones Speak.
Icelandic cuisine is one of the paragraphs of the introduction and in it, skyr6, the national cheese made with cultured skimmed milk, is described. At Efsti-dalur II7, a cattle and dairy farm not far from Laugarvatn famous for its ice cream, I bought delicious fresh farmhouse skyr, which I ate spread on crackers with some crumbled locally smoked trout8 on top or a thin layer of pesto made at Solheimar5 with the basil (basilico) that grows abundantly in their greenhouse (serra).
I knew about skyr before visiting Iceland. I didn't know about their greenhouses, heated by geothermal energy, in which various types of produce are grown, including, this time of the year, zucchini. Using the ingredients I had available, I prepared a savory tart adapting a beloved recipe of mine for savory carrot and fromage blanc tart.
Print-friendly version of briciole's recipe for Savory zucchini and skyr tart
Ingredients for the dough:
- 1 3/4 ounces / 50 g whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 3/4 ounces / 50 g whole-grain spelt flour (or another whole-grain flour of choice)
- 1/4 cup / 60 g lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- A pinch of fine sea salt
Note: the version in the photo has all whole-grain spelt flour, because my extremely limited knowledge of Icelandic did not allow me to locate whole-wheat pastry flour in the grocery store.
Ingredients for the filling:
- 1 pound / 450 g zucchini, possibly organic
- 4 ounces / 113 g leek (white and light green portion, clean weight)
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- Leaves of several sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon prepared pesto, optional (I used pesto a la Solheimar)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 7 ounces / 200 g Efstidalur II Skyr or fromage blanc
Make a dough with the ingredients and knead until nice and smooth, not sticky at all. Let it rest, well covered (e.g., wrapped in plastic film), for half an hour.
Cut the zucchini into sticks and then each stick into thin slices. Cut the leek in half lengthwise then into thin slices. Rinse well to eliminate any dirt.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the leek and stir to coat. Add the thyme leaves and stir. Cook gently until the leek is tender.
Add the zucchini and stir well. Cook until tender. If the zucchini release a lot of water, let it evaporate, leaving some moisture so it is easy to mix in the skyr later.
Season the zucchini with pesto (if using) salt and pepper and stir. Let cool while you roll the dough.
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 177 C.
Lightly dust with flour a piece of parchment paper about 13 inches / 33 cm wide. Working on the parchment paper placed over a work surface, roll the dough into an 11 inch / 28 cm diameter disk.
Add the skyr (or fromage blanc) to the zucchini and stir until distributed uniformly. Spread the zucchini and cheese on the rolled dough to form an even layer, leaving a 1 inch / 2.5 cm border of clean dough all around.
Fold the uncovered border of dough over the filling and pleat it at regular intervals.
Slide the parchment paper with the assembled tart onto a baking sheet and place it in the oven.
Bake until the top crust is crisp, approximately 30-32 minutes.
Take the tart out of the oven, cut and serve.
A lovely tasting tart, which I shared with a fellow artist at Gullkistan. Like Þórðarson's memories, it had the sweetness granted by a special place and special people.
1 Gullkistan, residency for creative people
2 Review of The Stones Speak in the Reykjavík Grapevine
3 Þórbergssetur the museum dedicated to Þórbergur in Hala, Suðursveit
4 Bókakaffið in Selfoss
5 Sólheimar (“The Home of the Sun”)
6 The brand of skyr you buy in stores in Iceland
7 Efsti-dalur II
8 The smokehouse in Utey makes three different kinds of smoked trout (silungur)
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
torta salata con zucchine e skyr
or launch the torta salata con zucchine e skyr audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]
This is my contribution to the 30th edition of Novel Food, the literary/culinary event that Lisa of Champaign Taste and I started some time ago and that I continue to host.
I want to try this tart, as well as the book. I have been reading Yrsa Sigurdardottir's novels and especially enjoy her descriptions of the land, culture and history which are woven into the stories. Also recently read a review of a Reykjavik restaurant that sounded intriguing. Were you able to eat at Dill while you were there?
Posted by: Claudia | July 09, 2017 at 12:52 PM
I'm generally not a zucchini fan, but it looks fantastic in this tart. I so love Novel Food - you and other bloggers have introduced me to some wonderful books and great recipes, too!
Posted by: Ali | July 09, 2017 at 08:00 PM
I will take a look at the author you mention, Claudia. I have read about Dill, but have not been there. I have not been to Reykjavik, actually. I had a plan of doing it the last day I was in Iceland, but then drove around the Reykjanes peninsula, south of Reykjavik. It reminded me a lot of the Big Island because of its lava fields :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | July 11, 2017 at 10:17 PM
Thank you so much, Ali. I am so glad you enjoy Novel Food. This tart is quite versatile: you can use other vegetables or a mix. It's good also reheated :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | July 11, 2017 at 10:20 PM
What a great experience for you! I have always wanted to visit Iceland. I have used and enjoyed skyr before and your tart is lovely. I'm on a major zucchini kick lately. ;-) The book sounds interesting too. Thanks for sharing it and for hosting Novel Foods.
Posted by: Deb in Hawaii | July 12, 2017 at 01:58 PM
Do it, if you can, Deb: it is a beautiful country and the people are wonderful. And you can adopt a skyr diet (which is what a did ;)
Posted by: Simona Carini | July 12, 2017 at 06:09 PM
Do you think I could use ricotta salata in lue of the skyr? Or greek yogurt?
Posted by: Abi | November 21, 2017 at 06:48 AM
Thank you for visiting my blog, Abi, and for your question. You'd want a creamy consistency here, so ricotta salata would not work. True ricotta, though, would. I make it at home when I have leftover whey from making cheese and use it regularly in variations of this tart. As I mention in the recipe, fromage blanc is an alternative. I have never cooked with Greek yogurt, so I don't know how it would react to baking in this way, but it is used to make tart fillings, so it is worth a try. I would drain it a bit to make sure there is no excess whey. If you try, please, let me know how it goes. Thanks!
Posted by: Simona Carini | November 21, 2017 at 10:35 AM