Whenever I walk through a museum, I imagine which paintings and sculptures I would buy if I were deliriously rich. It’s not that I fantasize about owning art—I think it belongs in public where everyone can enjoy it—but I love collecting pieces in my mind. If I could have anything in my home as part of my daily existence, what would it be? Would I choose the sleek, shining orb of a Brancusi bust for my modern cliff-top bungalow, where its surface would catch the early morning light glinting off the ocean? Or a Matisse, its colors and patterns exploding with haphazard joy, to hang by a window tangled with sunny vines, overlooking my garden and the rolling countryside beyond? Or the Picasso I can’t look away from, its yellows somehow indistinguishable from its blues, for my city living room 20 stories high, where I’d hang it just-so between shelves and shelves of mismatched books. Those garish colors would soften in the evening as I sat beneath it, drinking wine and eating fat green olives.
Every Tuesday and Friday I escape the frigid air conditioning of my office, navigate stairs, escalators and an elevator out into the bright midday sun of the Copley square Farmers Market. I start my meandering progression at the corner of Dartmouth and St. James, where the giant black and white cookies from Cook’s Farm Orchard look like Keith Haring cartoons. It’s a new exhibit every week. I walk by each tent, observing the dark purple and fluorescent yellow string beans from Stillman’s Farm, or the pasta exhibit from Valicenti Organic, where tiny, elegant rolls and ropes are carefully displayed and labeled with ‘Pappardelle ’ or ‘Saffron Spaghetti’ like a Joseph Cornell shadow box. The Siena Farms produce always seems to spill from its crates and the delicate baby eggplants lounge like Modigliani ladies in shades of violet and green.
Yesterday the Romanesco caught my eye: bright green and growing in the shape of a conifer tree. I couldn’t resist those geometric whorls, imagining them tossed in oil and roasted on a savory galette. The Delicata squash, resplendent with yellow-gold and stripes of sturdy green, looked like an exhibit of Matryoshka dolls in an antique toy museum. I bought both and proceeded to daydream about how to combine them for dinner. I was craving a tart (as usual), but since I have not only baked but also taken part in devouring 3 pies in the past week, I decided to go for a less decadent crust. The result was delicious; the warm, nutty crumble of the crust tempered by the lightness of ricotta and feta, topped with roasted, salty cauliflower and sweet, caramelized squash. Try it and let me know what you think!
Delicata Squash & Romanesco Tart with Ricotta & Savory Almond Crust
For the crust (adapted slightly from Cookie + Kate)
- 2 C Almond meal
- 4 cloves of roasted garlic
- A few herbs, finely chopped (I recommend a spring of rosemary and 2 sage leaves, but thyme would be delicious here too!)
- 1/3 C Olive oil
- ½ tsp Salt
- A healthy grind of pepper
- 2 T water
For the filling
- 4 cloves roasted garlic
- 1 ½ C full fat ricotta cheese
- ½ C crumbled feta cheese
- 2 T plain yogurt
- a healthy drizzle of olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- A spring of rosemary or thyme, finely chopped
For the Topping
- 1 small Delicata squash
- 1 large or 2 small heads of romanesco (or cauliflower)
- About 3 T olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Roast the garlic to its peak of soft, spreadable richness: Preheat oven to 400°. Slice an entire head crosswise, sprinkle exposed side of garlic cloves with olive oil, and wrap tightly in foil. Bake directly on oven rack for about 40 minutes.
- Prep and roast the vegetables: While the garlic is roasting, chop the Romanesco or cauliflower into individual pieces, wash, dry, and toss in about 1½ T olive oil and lots of sea salt. Clean the delicata squash (no need to peel it, the skin is delicious!) and slice length-wise down the middle. Remove seeds and cut off the tough stem and nub from the bottom and top. Slice into ½ inch half-moons, toss in a bowl with about 1½ T olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread the squash wide-side down on a baking sheet, and do the same with the cauliflower on another baking sheet. Place both in the oven. At 400 degrees, the vegetables should be roasted to perfection in about 25 minutes, but you’ll want to stir the cauliflower and flip the squash rings a few times so that they don’t burn. Once the sides of the squash touching the pan are slightly browned, flip them over.
- Make the crust: While your vegetables are roasting, grease a tart pan, baking sheet, or pizza stone with cooking spray or olive oil. To prepare the crust, stir together the almond meal, roasted garlic (should be soft and easy to mash), chopped herbs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Pour in the olive oil and water and stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined, making sure there are no large lumps of garlic. Press the dough onto your prepared pan/stone until it is evenly dispersed across the bottom and up the sides (if you are using a tart pan. I made a free-form circle and formed a slight ridge around the edge using my fingers). Bake until the crust is lightly golden and firm to the touch, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
- Make the filling: While the crust is baking, prepare your filling. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, feta, yogurt, olive oil, roasted garlic, salt, pepper and herbs. Stir together, making sure roasted garlic is thoroughly mashed and incorporated. Mixture should be light and smooth.
- Assemble and bake the tart: Once the crust has cooled slightly, spread the filling evenly over its surface. Arrange the roasted vegetables however you like and sprinkle with herbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes, just so that filling and topping are warm, being careful not to burn the vegetables. Enjoy!