This month’s Recipe Redux challenge incorporates some form of legume into a holiday party or potluck fare. The recipe below went through menu iterations before I landed on the right filling and presentation, but when I found out what the theme for December was, I had a pretty good idea what direction I’d want to take it. A few months ago, I made this salad, which is itself a good option to take to a potluck, but I wanted to try it with butternut squash. From there I made a large galette, and then mini galettes, which proved far too cumbersome to be useful for bringing to a party. The mini tarts seemed like the perfect combination of rustic and whimsical, while still being practical enough to prepare and transport to a party. I used mini muffin tins to get the size created above, but I suspect larger sizes will work well, too, because this filling combination tasted great in whichever pastry shell I baked it.
The filling is a smooth, creamy combination of roasted butternut squash, roasted garlic, goat cheese, and lentils, and its topped with a layer of caramelized onions that get slightly crispy in the oven after baking. For my first attempt at the filling, I went a little light on the lentils and goat cheese, but I found these needed to be ramped up a bit, as the butternut squash can easily be the dominant flavor.
Most of the components can also be prepared in advance and frozen or refrigerated before use. The filling can certainly be held in the fridge for up to two days, and I also found that freezing the pastry crust overnight also helped space out the components of what can be, admittedly, a little bit of a labor-intensive recipe. To cut down on time, using frozen puff pastry rounds as the base of the tarts (making mini free form tarts) might be a good substitution.
Mini Tarts filled with Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Lentils
For the tart dough
(recipe from Use Real Butter)
4 oz. unsalted butter, cubed
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 Tbs Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 oz cold water
1) Place the butter, flour, sugar, cheese, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the butter is pea-sized. With the processor running, quickly add all of the water until just barely combined (do not over-mix).
2) Empty the contents of the processor onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press it into two flat disks about 4-inches across each. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
For the filling
1/3 cup uncooked lentils
1 small or medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (seeds discarded)
3 cloves garlic, skins still on
salt & pepper
3 ounces soft goat cheese
1) Prepare lentils according to package instructions, including any soaking and simmering required. I soaked my lentils for 8 hours, drained and rinsed them, then brought them to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.
2) Roast the squash & garlic: Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Transfer the squash and garlic to a large, rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil, coating thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Roast with on a rimmed baking sheet for 45 minutes, or until tender (check at 30 minutes and insert a fork to test for doneness). Transfer the butternut squash pieces to a large bowl and set aside. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic bulbs out of their papery skins into the bowl with the butternut squash.
3) Caramelize the onions: Chop the onions into roughly ¼-inch pieces. Add about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they turn brown and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Be careful not to burn the onions as baking them in the tarts later will make them too crispy. I find cooking slowly over lower heat helps here.
4) Combine the ingredients to form the filling: When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic bulbs out of their papery skins into the bowl with the butternut squash. Add the caramelized onions, goat cheese, and lentils. Stir to combine the ingredients and melt the goat cheese. Using a large spoon or flat, broad utensil, mash the squash until large chunks are broken apart.
To assemble the tarts
1) Roll the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap as thin possible, ideally less than ¼-inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter about 3 inches across, cut mini tart crusts out of the dough and put one circle in inside each well of a greased mini muffin pan, forming the tart dough as you work to fit the shape of the muffin tin.
2) Fill each tart crust with a scant teaspoon of the squash & lentil filling. Top with a pinch of caramelized onions. Fill each tart crust to just the top of its shell.
3) Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes. Using a fork, gently transfer the mini tarts to a cooling rack. They’re best served warm but are also good at room temperature.