That’s some unholy mashup of taste and texture. Maybe you should boil some water. Maybe I am pregnant. Because squash and anchovy cravings may seem a bit odd to quite a few folks.
But what can I say? I had an itch to make a butternut squash tart, and a craving for anchovies. So I made a recipe up that satisfied both the itch and the craving. It’s loosely based on a custard-style pumpkin pie. Only my version is fully savory. I knew it would be good before I even started making it. Still I figured it needed a little yin for its yang.
Butternut Squash Tart
Butternut squash, especially when roasted as it is in this recipe, gets a certain sort of savory sweetness that really satisfies. So I figured the yin of those complex caramelized sugars would balance nicely with the yang of something salty. I also knew it needed something fresh and crisp. A salad would be perfect. But it neeeded to be a simple salad, really more of a crunchy garnish– so that the creamy texture of the squash tart could still rule the plate.
I decided on chiffonades of crunchy baby romaine leaves. Well once romaine was decided, it wasn’t too far a reach to start considering anchovies. The Caesar salad has assured that these 2 ingredients will always be considered partners.
But butternut squash and anchovies? Was this just too far a reach? Well, the only way to find out was Google. I often Google ingredients to see just how popular they are together. Just in case my cravings are actually the ravings of a lunatic.
I could not find one recipe that contained both butternut squash and anchovies on the first page of google. So maybe I was insane. Or maybe I was a genius.
Guess which option I chose? Genius of course. Because there it was, hidden way back on Google page 3. Just the validation my cravings were looking for. Because I came across a recipe for “zucca, onion and anchovy spaghettini” from Mario Batali!
You do know what zucca is don’t you? It’s what we geniuses call butternut squash!
- 2 1⁄2 c all-purpose flour
- 1 t kosher salt
- 1 t sugar
- 1 c unsalted butter
- 1⁄4 c ice water
- 1⁄2 c olive oil, divided plus 2 tablespoons and more as needed
- 1 large butternut squash
- salt & pepper as needed
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 T white wine vinegar, plus more as needed
- 6 anchovy fillets, rinsed
- 2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 1 1⁄2 c parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 eggs
- 1⁄2 c whole milk
- 1 t fresh thyme leaves
- 1 pn cayenne pepper, to taste
- 8 small, interior romaine leaves, or to taste
PREPARE THE DOUGH: In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add 1 cup butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds. With machine running, add 1/4 cup ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. You will only need one ball of the dough for this recipe. You may store the other frozen, up to 1 month.
LINE THE PIE PAN: Roll out dough to a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Line a 9-inch pie plate with dough. Trim overhang right to the outer edge of the pan. Or alternatively trim overhang to 1-inch and crimp or flute the edge. Prick bottom all over with fork. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to one day.
ROAST THE SQUASH: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the stem and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and fibers. Stuff each cavity with salt, pepper, and 3 thyme sprigs. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil all over the flesh. Turn the halves cut-side down onto a foil-lined tray and roast about 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size), until well softened. Remove from the oven and let cool somewhat before continuing.
MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE: Combine 1/2 cup olive oil, white wine vinegar, a pinch each salt and pepper, and 3 of the anchovy fillets in a blender, and turn the machine on. A creamy emulsion will form within 30 seconds. Taste, and add more vinegar if necessary, about a teaspoon at a time, until the balance tastes right.
Add shallot, and pulse the blender few times, until shallot is minced within the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve. (This vinaigrette is best made fresh but will keep refrigerated for a few days. Before using, bring it back to room temperature, and whisk briefly.)
MAKE THE FILLING: In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks, 3 anchovies and a generous pinch of black pepper; cook, stirring often, until the anchovies dissolve and the leeks are soft and just beginning to color. About 6 minutes.
Once the squash is cool enough to handle scrape out the flesh and add it to the bowl of a food processor. Add the leek mixture, 1-cup Parmesan cheese, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 1/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, the barest pinch of cayenne pepper. Pulse the mixture 8 or 10 times until it is well mixed and fairly smooth. The leeks should be the only texture.
ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the cold, dough-lined pie pan from the refrigerator. Spread the squash mixture over the entire surface of the pie pan, filling the pan completely. Smooth the top to level and sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
Bake until well-browned and set. About 40 to 45 minutes
SERVE: Cut the romaine cross-wise into very thin ribbons. Toss with a bit of the anchovy vinaigrette. Slice into 8 pieces and top each slice with a mound of the dressed romaine. Serve warm or at room temperature.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD
Butternut Squash Tart