Recipe of the Week: Chocolate-Squash Tart

A crumbled up cookie crust and a simple squash custard elegantly upgrade plain ol' pumpkin pie
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Upgrade from pumpkin pie to this chocolate-squash tart

Excerpted from Fresh Pantry: Cook Seasonally, Eat Smart & Learn to Love Your Vegetables, Skipstone Books 2013

This tart is made from crumbled-up cookies and a simple winter squash custard. Chocolate cookies go well with the smooth squash flavor, but you can use any cookie on hand for this sweet, crisp crust. Simply add a few shakes of cocoa powder to turn the cookie crumble chocolaty. Steamed squash is the perfectly creamy filling, very much like canned pumpkin flesh in pies. Since tart pans are shallow, you don’t end up with heavy mouthfuls of filling.

Chocolate-Squash Tart 
Makes one 9-inch tart

6 ounces crisp chocolate cookies or biscotti 
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 pound winter squash, cut in half and seeds removed
3 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, bar or block 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a blender or food processor, grind the cookies, sugar and salt into fine crumbs and put in a mixing bowl. Pour in the melted butter, stirring to combine well, until the crumbs are well coated and moist and take on an oily look. 

Press the crumbs into a 9-inch tart pan, spreading evenly across the bottom and pressing into the fluted sides. The crust will be thin. Put it in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crumb crust is crisp and dry. 

For the filling, cut the squash into several big pieces—don’t worry about the skin. Put the chunks of squash, skin side down, into a large saucepan with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once it’s boiling, reduce to a low simmer and cook, steaming the squash until very soft, about 20 to 25 minutes. Don’t burn the bottom of the pan—add small amounts of water as necessary. It is important that you don’t boil the squash but steam it, so be sure no squash flesh is submerged in the water at any time. When the squash is completely cooked through, remove it from the heat, drain, and set aside to cool. 

Scoop out the squash flesh with a spoon after it has cooled. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix the squash until smooth, removing any stringy lumps. Add the eggs, brown sugar, spices and salt, mixing well. The squash filling will be thick and smooth, like a heavy cream. 

Pour the squash mixture into the tart shell, to just under the tart pan edges. Bake about 40 minutes, until the filling is firm and does not jiggle in the middle when shaken lightly. 

While the tart is baking, shave pieces of the bittersweet chocolate into curls using a vegetable peeler or the blade of a chef’s knife. When the filling is set, remove the tart from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate curls over the top. Serve when cool. 

PANTRY NOTE: Extra squash filling will keep for three days in the fridge and may be used in any other tart or pie shell or baked in a ramekin as you would a crème brûlée. This tart can be kept at room temperature, lightly covered with parchment, for three days.

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