My little baking secret? Storebought puff pastry for savory or sweet

I always have a package of frozen puff pastry in my freezer as a secret weapon for making a delicious but effortless dessert, appetizer, or main dish.

With its crispy, flaky layers and endless versatility, puff pastry can be used in countless sweet and savory ways. You can use it as a crust for a free-form tart, cut and twist it into cheese straws, fold it into turnovers, cut and bake it in muffin tins for easy appetizers, or use it to top a chicken pot pie or a tarte tatin.

The good news is that frozen puff pastry has become a supermarket staple delivering all the glories of puff pastry without all the hours of hard work that go into making puff pastry in your kitchen.

It’s great for entertaining because most recipes can be assembled in advance and baked just before party time. Plus, your guests will think you are a baking pro.

The box of pastry contains one or two thin flat sheets of dough that will bake into a thousand delicate, buttery layers.

Although they are more expensive, I think the best brands are those made with butter: Dufour (sold at Whole Foods and seasonally at Trader Joe’s). Pepperidge Farm’s version contains vegetable shortening and is available in most supermarkets.

Allow the pastry to thaw completely before using it, either overnight in the refrigerator or for 45 minutes at room temperature. Unfold the pastry gently, and to prevent sticking, roll the sheet out on a surface dusted with flour, sugar or grated cheese, depending on whether your recipe is sweet or savory. Use a rolling pin to very lightly smooth the seams from the packaging.

Puff pastry is easiest to work with when it’s cold, so keep whatever you’re not using in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap. If the pastry gets too soft while rolling or cutting it, return it to the refrigerator or freezer to firm it up.

If your recipe says to bake the pastry before adding fillings, you’ll want to prick the surface lightly with a fork so the center won’t rise as much as the edges. To create a raised pastry edge around your filling, use a sharp knife to mark a 1-inch border around the inside of the pastry sheet being careful not to cut all the way through.

Line your baking sheets with parchment to prevent sticking. Brush your puff pastry with an egg wash (one large egg lightly beaten with about 1 teaspoon water) to give it sheen and color. Place the pastry in the refrigerator to chill again before baking to ensure crispiness. Bake the dough in a hot 425°F oven on the center rack until you see it puff up and just start to brown, about 10 minutes.

Zucchini, Lemon, Feta and Pine Nut Tart

This recipe is adapted from Flavor by Sabrina Ghayour, Asher, an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group ($34.99).

The fresh fruit flavors of honeydew and lime in this bold and crisp Rombauer Vineyards 2022 Sauvignon Blanc

($28.) from Napa Valley make it a great pairing option with this dish.

7 ounces Feta cheese

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon dried mint

1 teaspoon dried wild oregano

Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 x 11-ounce ready-rolled puff pastry sheet (about 14 x 9 inches)

1 zucchini, very thinly sliced

Olive oil

Handful of pine nuts

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon chile flakes (omit if you prefer)

Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

Put the feta, ricotta, dried herbs, lemon juice and zest into a mixing bowl with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Beat together until smooth.

Place the puff pastry sheet on the lined pan and score a border half an inch wide around the edges, then spread the cheese mixture across the pastry up to the scored border.

Lay the zucchini slices, slightly overlapping, on the cheese mixture, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter with the pine nuts and bake for 16 to 18 minutes until the pastry edges are nicely browned.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, then drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with the chile flakes before serving.

Yield: Serves 4