An unEasterlike Dinner: Squash and Onion Tart

squash and onion tart

I’m sitting here, having a slice of leftover tart for lunch, and thinking about how entirely inappropriate this meal was for an Easter dinner. I wanted to bring something to my sister’s celebration on Sunday, both to contribute to the table and so I’d have something “special” to eat myself. (She was cooking a ham, and I’m loathe to make a vegetarian meal out of side dishes alone. As good as the boiled buttered cabbage and scalloped potatoes were, they weren’t going to do me for such a festive occasion.) But the vegetables in the tart I made were so completely unspringlike– much more appropriate for Thanksgiving than for Easter.

I ask you, why does Easter have to be so early in the year? Obviously we can’t just go moving holidays around to suit our culinary inclinations, but it does seem to me that a holiday with such hopeful, joyous connotations deserves produce that evokes similar feelings. (Well, I think the connotations of Easter are hopeful and joyous- you’ll have to ask my sister to be sure. I used to read novels in church, tucked in between the pages of a Bible.)

But such isn’t the case, and looking in the market on Sunday for inspiring Spring vegetables, I was mightily disappointed. Too early for asparagus, too early for peas and beans, I settled on an old favourite, the butternut squash. In the past I’ve roasted cubes of this for a quiche, adding caramelized onion and chopped sage for a autumnal weekend lunch. This time I wanted to try something different, having seen an intriguing recipe in my fabulous French Bakery cookbook Breakfast, Lunch, Tea.

This recipe differs from that more standard quiche in several key ways. It’s not overly eggy, only containing one whole egg and one yolk, and instead of roasting cubes of squash and mixing them into a cream mixture, you puree all the ingredients together before filling the pie shell. The end result is creamy but light, more like a savory pumpkin pie than a traditional vegetable tart. The whole wheat crust and high veggie content make this a tart you can actually feel quite virtuous eating. So perhaps suitable for Easter after all, then?

unroasted squash

roasted squash

tart case unfilled

squash tart unbaked

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Tart with Sage and Pinenuts
Adapted from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini

  • makes one 10″ tart
  • 350g plain white flour
  • 150g whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 250g unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 small-medium onions
  • 2 Tsp. butter
  • 2 Tsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 5-6 sage leaves
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup single cream
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
  • 4-6 sage leaves

1. Mix the flours, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.2. Make a well in the middle of the flour, and add the egg yolk and half the water. Mix quickly with a fork until the mixture comes together. (If it is very cold out, you may need to add a bit more cold water, a teaspoon at a time.) Use your hands to quickly mold the dough into a ball. There is no kneading involved, you just want to work quickly, and make sure the dough is neither sticky or too crumbly. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a 10″ tart tin, quiche pan, or loose-bottom cake pan with butter. Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into three even pieces. Two of these pieces can be wrapped in clingfilm and frozen for another day.

4. Flour a work surface and a rolling pin, and roll out the remaining piece of dough to about 1/8″ thick. Lift it gently into your greased pan, making sure that you don’t stretch it to fit. Press it into the pan gently and trim away the tops. Return to the fridge for another 30 minutes.

5. Bake the tart cases blind with whatever weighs you have inside (uncooked rice or beans in foil, or ceramic baking weights) for about 25-30 minutes, removing the weights after 20. The pastry should be dry and just beginning to turn golden.

6. Slice the onions thinly, and place in a heavy pan (with a lid!) over medium heat. When they begin to dry out and stick to the pan (after about 5 minutes), add the butter, olive oil and sage leaves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low, cover again, and cook for 30-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a bit more olive oil if they begin to stick. The onions are done when they’re deep brown, barely holding their shape and taste sweet. Set aside to cool.

7. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Quarter the butternut squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the pieces in a baking dish and brush with olive oil. Roast gently for 30-40 minutes, until browning in parts and soft. When you take the squash out of the oven, turn the heat down to 180°C/350°F.8. When the squash is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin (use a sharp knife if you find it difficult) and break up the squash. Place the chunks in a large bowl or jug, and add the cream, egg, egg yolk and nutmeg. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. (If you don’t have an immersion blender,this step can also be done in a food processor.)

9. Gently fold the caramelized onions into the squash mixture, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into the cooled tart case and shake gently to settle. Arrange the remaining sage leaves on top of the tart, and sprinkle over the toasted pinenuts. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is shiny, set and just turning golden.