Let Them Eat... Pie

Or a tart. Or a quiche... Anything with a crust, and savoury! 

It must be the weather. The chilliness that persists, even on the sunniest of days (or dreariest ones, like today)  have pushed my gears into 'hibernation' mode. I have been positively CRAVING salty, crunchy, starchy and fried lately. I am a firm believer that when one is properly tuned to one's body, one's cravings are an indication of what the body needs: it might just be my excuse for allowing myself to down an entire bag of chips (honestly, it rarely happens!), or to slurp a vat of squash soup; but I just know that when I have an urge to splurge on beets it's because I am in need of a shot of iron. I feel like a ravenous bear getting ready for winter, and said bear is not easily calmed. However, short of giving myself a heart attack from daily doses of samosas and other fried goodies, I have been managing my hunger with this tart. Or a version of it.

If you understand French, the recipe is fine as is, otherwise my tweaked version follows. This tart is marvellous! I made it for Thanksgiving, and then I had to make another one the next day. And I have been nibbling on left-overs since! Worry not, I am not running the risk of poisoning myself with off food, this savoury tidbit freezes remarkably well, as does the filling.

I have not included a recipe for the crust, because, I must confess, I am a bit of a boob when it comes to pie crusts: I have had very little success with savoury crusts at home. I have a great recipe for a sweet shortcrust, and I am quite handy with puff pastry -but too lazy to make it at home- so I always use a store-bought all-butter puff pastry. If you have a good recipe for pie crust, go ahead and use it. I am really partial to using puff pastry for savoury tarts and quiches: when rolled out quite thin (3mm/ 1/8"), and fully pre-baked, puff pastry becomes a crisp shell that is practically soggy-proof. (As you can observe from my photos, I was a bit rushed when making this tart, and the shell was somewhat under-baked and is a tad soggy.)Whatever your preference of crusts, make sure you roll out the dough as thin as possible, and pre-bake until it looks done. Try to avoid those pre-formed pie shells in the flimsy aluminium pans: they tend to be very thick, and would overwhelm the filling. A perfect pie crust will quell any craving for fatty, starchy foods.

While the original recipe calls for butternut squash, any squash will do. You can even make it with raw, sliced zucchinis or other summer squashes, when in season. Butternut squashes are probably the easiest winter squashes to find, as they are quite popular with most chefs, however there is a slew of squashes that I, personally, find more interesting: delicata and acorn squashes (pictured above) are smaller than butternut, and tend to have a  drier, more flavourful flesh; buttercups have a tough rind, but it surrounds the fluffiest, starchiest squash, if it weren't for the sweetness, you'd think it was a potato; massive hubbards have a beautifully dark orange flesh, and a concentrated 'pumpkin' flavour. You can also recycle your Hallows' Eve decor, if you so wish.

Since this tart has Italian origins, it calls for typically Italian seasonings: sage and brown butter are usually paired with winter squashes (especially with squash ravioli or tortellini...); nutmeg is often used with ricotta cheese; and thyme has an earthy, autumnal-ness to it.


Winter Squash and Ricotta Tart
Makes one 20cm/ 8" tart

500g/ 1lb of squash
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 pinches thyme, fresh or dried
a few gratings of nutmegs, or a pinch of ground
3 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced, or a pinch of dried
1 Tbs butter
225g/  8oz ricotta
100g/ ½c grated Parmesan
2 eggs
1 sheet puff pastry

On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry as thinly as possible. 
Place dough in tart mold, making sure that every nook is filled and the sides adhere to the dough.
Chill the tart shell, at least 30 minutes. Trim the edges once the dough has fully chilled and relaxed.
In the meantime, peel the squash and cut into wedges (check out the original recipe for pictures on how to peel a squash.) Season with olive oil, salt and pepper, leave to rest while the oven heats up.
Pre-heat the oven to 220'C/ 425'F.
To make the filling: Mix ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg, eggs and salt (about ½ tsp) until fully combined.
Melt butter in a saucepan. When the butter starts to bubble vigorously, add the sage and thyme, let cook until the butter turns a light nutty brown. Add to the ricotta mix. Set aside.
Place squash wedges onto a baking sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes.
Trim pie shell edges, fill with weights and pre-bake about 25-30 minutes (if using something other than puff pastry, baking time and temperature will differ.)
When shell is fully baked -try removing from mold and checking the bottom: it should be golden brown, and the inner surface should no longer look raw and damp- fill to ¾ with the ricotta.
Place the squash wedges as artfully as possible (don't worry if it looks messy, it will be beautiful when it comes out of the oven).
Bake at 180'C/ 350'F, for 20 minutes.

Fluted quiche molds are not very deep, but are just the right size for most tarts: they contain just enough filling for a super thin shell. A 20cm tart will serve 6 to 8 people as a starter, or 4 as a light lunch (with a salad).

My inner bear is satisfied. Ggrrrrr!

Bon app'!



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