Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Squash Tart

Is it a tart? Quiche? Pie?

There is no combination quite like that of sweet and tender caramelized onions, aromatic sage, nutty browned butter, and (well, at least this cucurbitaceae) golden sweet pumpkin.

My favorite dish of all time (pre-gluten-free days) is a variation on this – smooth butternut puree mixed with sweet crumbs of amaretti cookies, wrapped up in little handkerchiefs and then served atop thin slices of salty prosciutto, garnished with chunks of toasted hazelnuts, and a healthy drizzle of browned butter.

I was craving these cappellacci con zucca the other day, but had to turn to my gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi from Agata and Valentina, tossed in a browned butter sauce, garnished with crispy sage leaves – and of course, that prosciutto.

‘Twas not sufficient. That squash and sage hankering came back with a vengeance. Luckily I was armed with a rather large Rouge Vif De’Temps (in my book, the best cucurbitaceae member out there) with the most brilliant orange flesh that tasted most sublimely sweet, like sugar.

Initially, I panicked. What to do?

I’d already said no to sweets – can’t fuel that fire. This has got to serve as a meal. 

No risotto – have had enough of that over the past 9 weeks.

Muffins? Cake? Bread? Oh wait, I’m a glutard… and don’t have freezer space like I used to.

Soup? Don’t forget about the soup you've got in the freezer already, remember? (And then there is this soup... and pasta...)

Then those handkerchiefs floated back into my head. Must. Have. Now. But rather than pasta, can I create that combination of flavors in a savory tart?

This is less eggy than a quiche, heartier than those delicate tarts I love from Once Upon a Tart in NYC. Consider it a savory pie, good enough for lunch or dinner, but with a creamy filling, it’s surely satisfying enough to stand in for it’s sweeter sibling.

Armed with two basic tart recipes as research, and my no-fail tart shell favorite from Alice Waters, I set off to work late Friday afternoon (armed with a bottle of wine, of course). While my tart shell was a failure*, the pie itself was a huge success.

Winter Squash Tart (Pie)

Tart Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour, gluten-free if necessary
6 tablespoons very cold butter (I like Organic Valley’s Pasture Butter)
Salt, if desired
Herbes de Provence, as desired
Water, if necessary (Start with a dribble)

Click here for instructions – this is the same dough I used for a caramelized onion-black olive galette. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough and blind bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Tart Filling
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Olive oil, for cooking
2-2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, still warm, from a roasted pumpkin
1 cup heavy cream (I like Robie Farm’s Raw Heavy Cream)
1/3 cup sage leaves, fine chiffonade
3 eggs, beaten well
Salt, to taste

In a large sauté pan, heat oil and cook onions until browned and meltingly tender. Set aside.

While onions cook, remove flesh from cooked pumpkin and let cool. Meanwhile, combine heavy cream and sage in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let steep.

Once cool, combine the pumpkin with the eggs and mix well. Add in the cream and sage leaves, then season to taste.

Top the blind baked tart shell with the caramelized onions. Pour over the pumpkin mixture. Set the pie plate atop a baking sheet in case the filling drips. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until the filling is just set in the middle.

Let sit for 10-15 minutes, and then serve with a side salad topped with salty prosciutto crisps. Then refrigerate your leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

*(I’d experimented with King Arthur Flour’s gluten-free all-purpose blend, which has no cornstarch or other allergens for me. It works for pancakes and such, but the crust seemed to melt into a puddle rather than brown. Never fear, because the filling set nicely once baked, but this is a mystery I’ll have to experiment with this winter.)