Monday, October 12, 2009

Market Fresh: Squash

Farmer's Markets and supermarkets are filled with winter squashes of all kinds right now. Years ago I only remember seeing spaghetti squash and perhaps acorn squash in the stores. Now one is spoilt with variety.

I came home from a local apple orchard with a Turk's Turban, Pie Pumpkin, Acorn Squash, Spaghetti Squash, and a giant, green and white striped Cushaw Squash to add to the five Butternut Squash already sitting at home. I tend to buy squash in quantity when I find a good price and then use them for decorations until I need them in the kitchen.

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In case you're wondering just what I'm going to do with all those squash, I'll give you a few ideas: the Cushaw may turn into pies (I hear they are particularly good for that), the spaghetti squash is destined to become a substitute for pasta under a good batch of meatballs and sauce, the acorn (while not my favorite) will probably be baked with some sort of sweet or savory topping, and the Turk's Turban, which is so beautiful, may just remain a decoration since, as one book puts it, "it's fibers and lack of flavor" suit it for looking at rather than cooking.

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I've used the first of the Butternut Squash in this amazing recipe:

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BUTTERNUT TARTS WITH SPINACH AND FETA
adapted from Roast Figs Sugar Snow

1 crust pastry

1 lb butternut squash
olive oil
9 oz fresh spinach (could use frozen spinach, thawed and drained)
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup half and half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
freshly grated nutmeg
7 oz Feta cheese (original recipe called for Gorgonzola, if you like)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel the squash and chop it into 1/2-inch size pieces. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until tender.

Wash the spinach and place in a large saucepan over medium heat) to wilt in the water left clinging to it (or thaw frozen spinach).
Drain spinach thoroughly.

Line a tart pan  (or 6 small tart tins) with the pastry and chill.

Make the custard by mixing together the eggs, egg yolk, cream and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Prick the bottom of the tart shell and bake blind -- line the pastry with parchment paper and put ceramic baking beans or ordinary dried beans on top -- in the preheated oven for 7 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and cook for another 4 minutes.

Spread the drained spinach on the bottom of the pastry. Sprinkle lightly with a tiny bit of grated nutmeg. Place the roasted squash on top of the spinach (you may not need all the squash you cooked). Dot with the Feta cheese. Pour the custard mixture over the tart and bake at 350F for 40 minutes for large tart or 25-30 minutes for smaller tarts. Let tart rest 10 minutes before cutting after removing from the oven.

Makes 1 large tart or 6 small tarts.

Gluten-Free: This can be made gluten-free by omitting the pie crust or substituting a gluten-free pie crust for the wheat pastry.