Saturday, March 9, 2013

Too Tart for Words

I love pie, and crusts are one of my favorite things to make. I appreciate that one recipe yields two. You can use both, or save one in the fridge while you wait for a second round of inspiration. This and my love of flour (read more about this in my first post on pizza dough) is what makes me gravitate towards baking, but these baking skills come in handy for savory dishes too. When recently faced with the what's for dinner thought, I looked around the kitchen and saw the makings of a savory tart. First I made my basic crust recipe, 2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 12 tablespoons butter or lard or a combination of the two and 5-7 tablespoons of ice water. I found that grating the hard, cold butter on a box grater is a simple way to get it incorporated into the flour. You still have to cut it into the flour (sometime I use a pastry blender, sometimes my fingers depending on how many dishes I feel like washing) but it doesn't take as long. Once the 2 crusts were chilling in the fridge, I looked around to see what would go in the tarts. I saw I had a butternut squash calmly waiting to be roasted. Butternut squash is so patient, probably because it knows that many people avoid it, preferering to purchase the pre-cut, pre-peeled, bagged butternut at Trader Joe's. I'm sure it tastes fine, but I just can't go there. I think if you take the time and gather the right tools you will find that peeling, cubing and roasting a butternut squash that you grew and cured yourself is well worth the time. Okay, you don't have to grow your own, but at least find a good organic one at the farmer's market. You should start with a cutting board, made sturdy by placing a thin towel underneath it, a large butcher knife, a small paring knife and a spoon.
First cut the butternut squash at the point where it starts to get wider, then take each section and cut them into rounds. It's more managable if it's in half first. For the top section without seeds, cut the rounds into quarters. Scoop the seeds out of the other rounds and cut those into about 1 inch sections. Use the paring knife to peel the skin off the outside of the squash. Some people will peel the entire squash with a vegetable peeler but nevers get all the skin off for me. Once peeled, you can cut the pieces of squash even smaller, as I did for this tart.
Now roast your pieces. I tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper. I decided to roast some potatoes too that could be the filling for the second tart. Just a couple of russets, peeled and cubed. The squash and potatotes can share a sheet pan, roast them in a 400 degree oven, start checking them at 20 minutes, roast until browned and tender. Try not to eat them all as they cool, you need them for your tart! While these were roasting I carmelized an onion, this was a purple one because it is what I had, you could do white, brown, or even shallots. As the squash cooled, I grabbed some baby spinach. Yes it was from a bag. I have none growing right now! I threw that baby spinach in the pan with the hot, carmelized onions and tossed it until it wilted a bit, then I added the butternut squash to the mix.
Now for the crusts. If you made your crust way in advanced, like the day before, or the week before and it's been sitting in the back of your fridge waiting for that inspiration, pull it out and let it warm up. You wouldn't wanted to be rolled on when you were all cold and stiff would you? Roll the crust out on a well floured counter, or for the sake of less clean up, roll it out directly on your sheet pan. I abhor these "airbake" cookie sheets for baking or roasting, but for a tart they work perfectly. I use the word tart loosely, I am too busy and well, lazy, to make a proper tart for a weeknight dinner, instead I opt for a lovely alternative I call free form. Once the crust is rolled out, pile the squash, spinach, onion mixture in the center, grate some cheese over the top. I used gran padano, then fold up the sides, leaving the filling peeking out the center. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust is nice and browned. Slice and serve. If you are wondering about the russets, they too got put in a crust, topped with mozzarella cheese. Equally delicious, but not as colorful.

1 comment:

  1. Again, not invited. RUDE RUDE RUDE! But I can take a hint. No tart for Tia.