In the kitchen, that means jump-starting a stalled menu with some new flavors. Plus, eating the harvest simply feels right. As anyone who's ever taken a bite of pumpkin pie in May knows, certain foods are a turn, turn, turnoff when served out of season.
Autumn dinners are well-served by a savory tart that combines the sweetness of butternut squash, the earthiness of chard and the creamy saltiness of Fontina cheese, all bound by an eggy custard.
Even better, the crust bypasses the usual buttery route and instead uses spelt flour, olive oil and a bit of yeast to make a tender, slightly chewy shell that adds protein to each bite.
Spelt is an ancient flour now being rediscovered as a "super grain" touted for its nutty flavor and its high proportion of protein and fiber. While not gluten-free, spelt is considered more easily digested than other forms of wheat. It's found in most co-ops, and is becoming more available in many supermarkets.
Tarts presume a certain amount of fuss with results that are worth it, of course and this one is no exception. Each ingredient needs a bit of cooking prep, but nothing complicated.
Life is simpler if you choose a butternut squash with the longest neck possible, which enables you to get more of the consistent discs that make an especially attractive tart. In any case, you'll want to peel and slice the squash, then roast the pieces for about 30 minutes to deepen the flavor before nestling them within the tart shell.
The chard and you can use spinach or kale if you prefer, or whatever looks best in the market that day needs only a wash, then a quick sauté until it just wilts, about five minutes.
The spelt dough comes together about that quickly. After a two-minute knead, it's rolled out and tucked into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Scattering cheese on the "floor" of the tart helps keep any sogginess at bay. Add most of the chard, then arrange the squash discs in an overlapping design, filling in the gaps with the remaining chard. A mixture of eggs and cream laced with a crucial bit of fresh nutmeg goes over all.
The resulting tart is striking with its play of deep green and orange, and its flavors are a welcome taste of autumn.
There is a time to harvest, and a time to bake. Eat, eat, eat
SQUASH AND CHARD TART
- 1 2/3 cup spelt flour, plus more for work surface
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 pound butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 8 ounces chard, or about 2 bunches (or substitute spinach or kale)
- 4 ounces Fontina cheese (about 1 1/2 cup, grated)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Butter for greasing pan
To make crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the oil, 1 egg and 1/4 cup water. With a fork, begin beating the wet ingredients, slowly pulling in the dry ingredients until a soft dough forms. Knead in the bowl until the ball of dough holds together, then transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes. The dough should be soft but not sticky. If it's sticky, add a little flour and knead again. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside while preparing filling.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make filling: Peel squash, making sure to peel down to the deep orange flesh, then seed and slice into 1/2-inch thick discs. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet, brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with thyme. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool slightly. Leave oven on.
Stem and wash chard, then tear into 3-inch pieces. Heat remaining olive oil (use any leftover from squash) and sauté chard, stirring frequently until just wilted, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
Grate cheeses and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 eggs plus egg yolk, cream and nutmeg. Set aside.
Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch circle. Drape the dough inside the tart pan, tucking it into the sides and bottom without stretching it. To trim the edges, roll the rolling pin over the rim.
Scatter grated cheese over the dough in an even layer. Squeeze the chard dry, then spread three-quarters of it over the cheese. Arrange the squash slices in a closely overlapping pattern, then tuck remaining chard into any gaps. Slowly pour the egg-cream mixture over the vegetables, then scatter Parmesan over all.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the filling is set.
Let the tart rest for 10 minutes, then remove from pan, slice and serve.
Nutrition information per serving:
Fat 28 g
Sodium 550 mg
Carbohydrates 36 g
Saturated fat 14 g
Calcium 270 mg
Protein 17 g
Cholesterol 190 mg
Dietary fiber 7 g
Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 2 bread/starch, 1 1/2 medium-fat meat, 4 fat.