The weather is changing in New England and we are all giggles at the turn of events. After what has been an arduous winter of sub-zero temperatures, it’s been so nice to have a few signs of spring. Cans collecting the sap for maple syrup have begun to line the roads. Big patches of snow come are tumbling down off rooftops. Mud is being tracked indoors instead of salt and ice. Hurrah! This is just what we need to lift our spirits.
These savory Individual Butternut Squash Tarts straddle the seasons nicely. Winter squash is roasted in the oven with garlic cloves, making them both soft and sweet. Next, they are whipped with a bit of sour cream and Parmesan cheese. Baked in a sweet delicate pastry dough, they come out of the oven sizzling and oozing with flavor. I like to top them with spring-like microgreens just before serve. These pastries make an incredible light lunch. Or, try them for dinner with some Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce & Pomegranate, a platter of cheeses and a bottle of wine. For dessert, consider some Peanut Butter Cookies & Baked Apples. Anyway you choose, relax, sit back and watch the snow melt.
What are the signs of the seasons in your part of the world?
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
INDIVIDUAL BUTTERNUT SQUASH TARTS
Yield: 8 Small Tarts
For the pastry shells:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out the dough
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
- 3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, chilled
- ¼ cup cold water, or more as needed
For the filling:
- 1 large butternut squash, split in half & seeds removed
- 1 head garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced finely
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup sour cream or full fat plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup microgreens or pea shoots
- Juice of 1 lemon
To make the tart shells:
- Sift the flour, salt and granulated sugar into a small mixing bowl. Add the butter and vegetable shortening. Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
- Sprinkle on the lemon juice and a bit of the cold water. Using your hands, mix the liquids into the dry mixture, adding more water as needed to form a smooth dough. Form the dough into a ball, then flatten it into about a round disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, line the tart pans with aluminum foil around the outside. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it into 6 equal pieces. Place 5 of the pieces back in the refrigerator while you work. Lightly dust a work surface and roll out one piece of dough to about a 6-inch round disk. Gently place it in a tart pan, drape any excess dough over the edges then folding it back on itself to form the shape of a crust. Refrigerate. Repeat until you have filled all 6 tart pans. Refrigerate pastry shells for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prick the pastry with a fork then line it with foil. Fill with beans, rice or pie weights to weigh down the crust as it is baking. Place in the oven and bake until the visible crust begins to become golden about 15 minutes. Remove the tart shells from the oven, carefully remove the weights and the inner foil, then return the tart shells to the oven. Bake until the bottoms are also golden, about another 5 minutes more. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before filling.
To make the filling:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the butternut squash halves face down on the cookie sheets. Scatter the unpeeled garlic cloves around the squash. Place in the oven and roast until both the squash and the garlic are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- Scoop the cooked squash out of its shell and into a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and into the bowl with the squash. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked onion to the large bowl holding the squash.
- Add the egg, sour cream or yogurt, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to the bowl. Mix until all the ingredients are combined.
To fill and bake:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Divide the squash filling between the six prepared tart shells.
- Place on a cookie sheet and the put into the oven.
- Bake until the filling is cooked through and lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Remove the tarts from their pans and place one on each of six dinner plates.
- Top evenly with the microgreens or pea shoots. Drizzle with lemon juice.
- Serve and enjoy.
- This recipe was adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.
- These ingredients will do well in a single 9-inch tart instead of the individual tarts. Just follow the same instructions for preparing the shell and filling. Bake a little longer, about 45 minutes.