This was inspired by Susan Spungen's recipe for Savory Ricotta-Squash Tart in Food and Wine Magazine. I've made it a dozen times this winter using a variety of squashes and finishing cheeses. It's a satisfying and elegant vegetarian dish sure to please even the most devoted carnivores. —Bob Vivant
whole wheat pastry
unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
medium butternut (the neck only) or acorn squash
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a baking pan toast hazelnuts in one layer until skins are dark brown, about 10 minutes. Finely chop the nuts once they have completely cooled.
Place the pastry flour, chopped hazelnuts, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse to combine.
Sprinkle the butter over the flour mixture. Pulse again until coarse crumbs form.
Add the water and blend dough until it begins to come together but is still crumbly.
Press dough in bottom and up the sides of a 14x5-inch tart pan (or a 9” round) with a removable bottom. Chill crust 30 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 400°F.
Bake crust in middle of oven until golden, about 25 minutes, and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Peel the butternut squash neck and cut into ½-inch slices. (If using acorn squash, leave the skins on.)
Arrange the slices on a baking sheet. Combine one tablespoon each of olive oil and maple syrup and brush on the squash slices. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir to coat with the oil. Add a pinch of salt. Allow the shallots to cook slowly, stirring occasionally until golden. Add the remaining maple syrup and remove from heat.
Combine the ricotta, eggs, cream, nutmeg, and a ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
Spread the ricotta filling in the cooled pastry shell. Sprinkle the caramelized shallots on top. Arrange the squash slices over the shallots. If using butternut squash, scoop out a 1-inch diameter circle in the center of each slice to create a nook for the remaining ingredients to nestle in. Sprinkle the crumbled chèvre and dried cranberries over the top of the tart.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the ricotta filling is puffed and firm to the touch. Enjoy!