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Winter Tarte


When we talk about winter meals we usually think about hearty stews and heavy dinners. But new year resolutions to lose weight and eat healthier don’t fit into the equation if you’re eating high calorie meals.

After the holidays I had several packages of puff pastry sheets that I had planned to use for appetizers but never got around to making. Instead of keeping them in the freezer for later use, I made a tarte with butternut squash and ground lamb. The recipe is extremely adaptable - use whatever ground meat you like, any cheese that melts, and your favorite winter squash. The recipe uses just one sheet from a 17.3 ounce frozen puff pastry package - save the other sheet for another time.

Because I used lamb in my recipe, I paired it with the Middle Eastern spices cumin, coriander and spearmint. Keeping with the exotic theme, I drizzled pomegranate molasses on top but a good quality balsamic would also be delicious. Some Fig Balsamic from O&Co would be perfect!

The recipe is extremely easy but requires three steps in the oven. First you roast the cubed winter squash and shallots, then blind bake the puff pastry, compose the tarte and finally return it to the oven to melt the cheese. Although you can enjoy the tarte as soon as it comes out of the oven, it’s even tastier when topped with some baby arugula and chives that have been tossed in a lemon vinaigrette.

Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 shallots, halved (or 1 cup sliced Vidalia onion)
Salt & pepper
1 lb. ground lamb
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. dried spearmint
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
A little flour, for rolling the pastry
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
Zest from 1 lemon
3 cups baby arugula
2 tsp. minced fresh chives
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Pomegranate molasses or thick balsamic vinegar, for serving

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you’re using packaged cubed butternut squash, you’ll probably need to cut them even smaller. For the best results, cut your squash into half-inch cubes.

In a large bowl toss the squash and onion with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Spread the vegetables on a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top then roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes until the squash is tender and lightly browned.

In a large skillet brown the ground lamb in a little olive oil. Drain the meat and toss with the cumin, coriander, spearmint and crushed red pepper. Place the lamb into a large bowl and set aside to cool slightly.

When the vegetables are done roasting, roughly chop the roasted shallots (if using) and add the butternut squash and shallots to the bowl with the lamb. Gently stir to combine.

On a sheet of parchment paper or non-stick foil sprinkle a little flour to prevent sticking, then roll out your puff pastry sheet into a 10” x 16” rectangle (so it just fits inside a baking sheet).

Lightly mark a 1-inch edge all around your puff pastry rectangle and use a fork to pierce the entire inner section. When you blind bake the pastry the outer edge will puff up but the inner pierced section will remain flat. Place the puff pastry and parchment on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. This will lightly brown your pastry.

While the pastry is in the oven, mix together the shredded cheese, egg yolks, sour cream and lemon zest and add it to the bowl with the lamb and squash. Stir gently to combine without breaking up the roasted squash.

After the pastry is browned, remove it from the oven, keeping it on the payment paper and baking sheet. Spread the squash-lamb-cheese mixture on the inside border of the pastry (being careful to not get any on the outer edge). Return the tarte to the oven and bake it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. If you’re worried about the edges getting too dark, you can place some foil around the edge to prevent over-browning.

While the tarte is finishing in the oven, toss the arugula and chives with the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. The arugula will begin to wilt slightly and soften.

Remove the tarte from the oven and top with the arugula. If you wish, drizzle a little pomegranate molasses or thick balsamic vinegar on top. Serve immediately.