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Entries in Appetizers (2)

Monday
Nov122012

Butternut Squash Tart

Saturday was a day to be indoors.  Those don't happen all that often in Colorado and we took full advantage of the gray day that alternated between rain and snow - we did "life admin" at home, took care of a few chores, and I finally made this Butternut Squash Tart.  My parents had a banner crop of squash this season and I have at least 15 squash and pumpkins waiting to be cooked.  

This was definitely a risky recipe -- one of those with components that are individually delicious, but who knows how they'll work together.  I also was not convinced the squash would be cooked through.

You'll see below that this was much enjoyed at our house.  I didn't take a final shot at the end of the day when every last piece was gone.  In our defense, we didn't really eat breakfast and this was lunch and an afternoon snack... but still.  The butternut squash flavor isn't particularly strong, but it is present and complimented by the spicy honey and the nutty parmesan and the delicious puff pastry.   

A few notes about this recipe:

First, I didn't have any Fresno, jalapeño, or red Thai chiles as called for in the original recipe.  I substituted red pepper flakes, which I think most people have in their kitchen.  They added the necessary spice and I didn't feel like it was missing anything as a result of the substitution.   

Second, I didn't feel like the sage contributed much to the dish except in making it prettier.  If you don't have sage leaves or don't want to bother with frying sage leaves, I don't think you'll miss them.  I did read online that you can microwave "fry" leaves - I've never tried it, but it might be worth investigating.

Third, while I do think this would make a great appetizer for a party, the middle slices of tart are harder to pick up and eat than the edges - they are better served on a small plate with a fork. 

Butternut Squash Tart
Adapted from Bon Appétit  

Ingredients
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed (from a 17.3-ounce package)
1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
12 1/8"-thick rounds peeled butternut squash (or about 2 cups of butternut squash cubes - see below for details)
kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 fresh sage leaves (optional)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
black pepper

Preparation 

  • Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Gently roll out 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed (from a 17.3-ounce package) on a lightly floured surface to a 10-inch square (just enough to even out). Transfer to prepared sheet.
  • Brush pastry with 1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp. water.  Arrange butternut squash cut 1/8" thick on the puff pastry.  I already had cubes of squash, which I just sliced into thinner pieces.  If you don't already have cubes, I think the best approach is to cut approximately twelve 1/8-inch-thick rounds of peeled butternut squash (cut from the neck of the squash).  Spread the sliced butternut squash over the pastry, overlapping as needed and leaving a 1/2-inch border (because I did squares, none overlapped).  Place another sheet of parchment paper over squash.  Set another large rimmed baking sheet over the tart (this will weigh down the pastry dough and steam the squash slices).
  • Bake until bottom of pastry begins to brown and top begins to puff, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove top baking sheet and discard top sheet of parchment paper.  Brush squash slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with kosher salt.  Return tart, uncovered, to oven and bake until pastry is deep golden brown and cooked through, 25–30 minutes longer.
  • Meanwhile, combine 1/4 cup honey, 1 tbsp red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat (add additional red pepper flakes if more heat is desired).  Boil until thickened slightly and syrupy, about 6 minutes.
  • Optional - Line a plate with paper towels.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet until just beginning to smoke.  Add 12 fresh sage leaves; fry until crisp, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  • Remove tart from the oven.  Brush the tart with the pepper-infused honey (I used about 2/3 of the honey).  Sprinkle 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan on top.  Return to oven for 1-2 minutes -- just long enough to melt the cheese.  Garnish with fried sage leaves (if you made them) and a few grinds of black pepper.

Monday
Apr022012

Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers

Colorado is known for its fickle weather.  Saturday I enjoyed a day at the swimming pool.  It was over 80 degrees outside and in one hour in the sun I managed to get a sunburn.  We had a picnic, including a few of these Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers.  

Today it snowed.  The spring flowers are in full bloom, the lilac bushes have buds, and the air smells of spring.  One can only hope that this April (snow) shower doesn't ruin it all.

Spring or winter, I think you'll enjoy these crackers.  At our March cooking club, three people mentioned how much they loved these and how easy they were to make.  What isn't to love about a cheesy cracker, particularly for a cocktail party or to bring to someone's house as a hostess gift?  Double the recipe and freeze a log so you'll always be able to pop a tray of crackers into the oven.  And while I made these with fresh rosemary, the original recipe calls for thyme and I think you could use any fresh herbs you have on hand.

Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers
Adapted slightly from the Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces grated Parmesan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary sprigs (stems removed)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper 

Directions
1.  Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until creamy. Add the Parmesan, flour, salt, rosemary and pepper and combine.

2.  Dump the dough on a lightly floured board and roll into a 1 1/2-inch wide log (mine was approximately 12 inches long).  Wrap the log in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.*

3.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the log crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake for 22 minutes.

* I made a double recipe and froze one log to bake later.  I let the log thaw at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then proceeded with step (3) above.