Squash. It’s one of those things I didn’t eat much when I was a kid. The thing is, my mother hates squash. It wasn’t until years later that I realized I had no idea what squash tasted like because I had never had it. Or eggplant for that matter. Isn’t it funny how your grown-up tastes are impacted by experiences from your youth? And how much of that is influenced by what those around you ate? Luckily, I come from a long line of good eaters. Adventurous eaters. We’ll try anything once. Squash just never entered into the equation because someone did the homework for me. A-hem.
Fact is, I kind of like squash. It’s especially tasty roasted until it caramelizes with a smidge of brown sugar and/or maple syrup. Maybe it’s living in the Midwest but squash is everywhere. The farmers markets and even grocery stores are full of all kinds of spectacular specimens – butternut, acorn, kabotcha, red kuri, sugar pumpkins, turban, strange bumpy pink ones that have no name but look like they have warts. Oh yum.
It’s all kind of fun – and their shelf life is ridiculously long – but after you’ve roasted, pureed and made a couple batches of soup, what do you do? What’s next? If you’re me, you make a tart. I like anything in a buttery flaky crust. Seriously. I forgive a multitude of restaurant sins if the pastry is good. Hell, I’d eat play-doh if it was wrapped in a good butter crust.
I was recently gifted with a particularly lovely butternut squash from a pal’s father’s garden and its been sitting on my counter for a few weeks. I decided to try a squas and onion pie recipe and the results were good but not great. There was, however, a glimmer of promise in that crust so I tweaked it a bit. Changed some ingredients that I thought were superfluous and added others that made it better. You know, the usual process. I am quite happy with the results and think it would be just lovely on your Thanksgiving tables. I’m just saying.
Butternut squashes are easily found in any market this time of the year. Most of the year, actually. This recipe calls for 1 pound of peeled squash, about half of an average sized one if you don’t have a scale. To remove the skin, use a vegetable peeler. With a little oomph and elbow grease, it’ll come right off. I’ve also seen pre-peeled squash chunks in bags at Trader Joe’s if you choose to go that route but you’ll pay for it.
I used my standard quiche pastry crust – it’s super easy and rather delicious. Now then, I’m going to say it. Yes, you could make this with purchased pie dough. Yeah, I know. Shoot me. But I don’t want making a homemade crust the only thing holding you back from making this tart so do what you need to do. If that’s a box of pie crust and squash in a bag, then so be it. But next time, get a squash from your local farmer. And the time after that, take a leap of faith and make the pastry dough. It will get better each time.
OK, something I need to point out in good conscious. This recipe is a little futzy. There are a lot of steps, though none of them difficult. Make the dough. Roll the dough. Par-bake. Roast the squash. Puree the squash. Saute the onions. Brown the crumbs. Mix the filling. Fill the shell. Bake. But that’s it! The tart is so pretty, so tasty, so flippin’ seasonal it’s worth it. Put some leaves in your hair and call yourself Mother Nature.
I have about half of a squash left in the fridge after this one. Next up: gnocchi. With brown butter and bread crumbs, maybe a little fresh sage. Sounds good, doesn’t it? I just can’t bring myself to make more soup.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: MEDIUM-HIGH. This IS fall in a pretty breadcrumb covered crust, all warm and toasty. I’m sure there are all sorts of antioxidants packed into a squash but I’m too lazy to look that up and confirm. So here’s my rationale – it’s orange and orange vegetables are good. If it improves my night vision, even better. Plus it’s got cheese in it and that makes everything better, much like bacon. Oh, bacon. I hadn’t considered that.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & ONION TART
1 recipe single butter crust (use my recipe or yeah, even purchased pie dough, I won’t tell)
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons olive oil (for roasting squash) + 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil (for sauteeing onions)
1 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter (for sauteeing onions) + 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (for toasting breadcrumbs)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup dry white wine
1/3 cup bread crumbs (fresh or panko preferably, both work well)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 whole large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (about 1 ½ ounces)
1/3 cup crumbled mild soft goat cheese (about 1 ½ ounces)
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
a few gratings of fresh nutmeg (or a pinch of ground)
freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Roll the dough: On a lightly floured surface roll out dough into a 12” round (about 1/8” thick).
- Fit dough into an 9 or 10” tart pan with a removable fluted rim. Freeze shell 15 minutes.
- Par-bake: 25 minutes in middle of oven until edge is pale golden or until bottom is golden.
- Cool pastry crust slightly before filling.
- Roast the squash: peel the squash and scoop out the seeds.
- Cut the squash into 1” chunks and toss with the olive oil.
- Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast in 375°F oven, about 30 minutes until golden and tender but still moist. Do not roast until dry or you’ll have a leaden, heavy filling.
- Set aside and let cool.
- Sauté the onions: While squash is roasting, melt ½ Tablespoon and 1 ½ teaspoons of olive oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the wine and continue to cook until liquid has evaporated.
- Transfer to a small bowl and allow to cool.
- Toast the breadcrumbs: In the same skillet melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and stir in bread crumbs until well combined.
- Brown for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden.
- Puree the squash: Add the cooled squash to a food processor and process until smooth.
- Add the cream followed by the whole egg and egg yolk. Scrape down and blend well.
- Finish filling: Transfer squash mixture to a large bowl and stir in parmesan, goat cheese, minced herbs, sautéed onion, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Pour filling into shell, smoothing top.
- Top with the bread crumb mixture, spreading evenly over filling.
- Bake: 35-40 minutes in the middle of oven or until filling is set.
- Cool tart in pan on rack 10 minutes and carefully remove rim. Serve warm or at room temperature. Tart is best served the same day it’s made but will keep at room temperature for a few days, covered.