Have you ever tried vanilla in savory food? A few years ago, Jeff and I went to a fancy seafood restaurant in Detroit for our anniversary, and I had a halibut and crab cake dish that came with a sauce that was very lightly kissed with vanilla. It was probably one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my life, and I haven’t looked at vanilla the same way ever since.
Vanilla in a savory capacity works best when the savory item you are making has a natural sweetness to it. In the case of the seafood dish, the crab had a natural sweetness. Today, the butternut squash I used in this tart was a perfect flavor to be paired with a little touch of vanilla. This lazy man’s fancy butternut squash tart (more on that in a minute) would be a perfect side dish for a holiday meal, and you need just six ingredients to prepare it.
Start by tossing slices of butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper (three ingredients that I didn’t include in the six ingredient promise – shhhhhh). Roast the squash until it is nice and tender. Then, be casual about it and grab an easy-peasy roll of store-bought pie crust. Feel free to use homemade crust if you want, just know that I’m not.
Line a tart pan with the crust, then sprinkle the crust with a handful of grated Pecorino Romano cheese (Parmesan works just as well). Pile the roasted squash into the crust, and then dollop it with a simple mixture of ricotta cheese and Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. I always keep a jar of this stuff on hand, because it’s true lazy-man’s vanilla beans. Like, no scraping the vanilla bean with a paring knife. Just open jar, insert measuring spoon. You can use this vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla extract in just about any recipe, and you get those lovely specks of vanilla bean that scream “hey, this is fancy.” Finish your lazy man’s fancy tart with a sprinkle of chopped rosemary, and enjoy the savory-sweet-vanilla-flecked goodness that is this tart.
Butternut Squash Tart with Vanilla Bean Ricotta
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 refrigerated pie crust
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 3/4 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
- 1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh rosemary
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Divide squash slices between 2 rimmed baking pans and toss liberally with oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to oven and roast 20 minutes or until squash is tender, turning squash once halfway through cooking. Remove squash from oven and let stand (leave oven on).
- Press crust into 9-1/2-inch round tart pan; cut off excess dough hanging over edge. Use a fork to poke some holes in the bottom of the crust. Line crust with parchment paper and fill tart with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove crust from oven (leave oven on); remove pie weights and parchment paper from crust.
- Sprinkle Pecorino Romano over bottom of crust, then spread roasted squash evenly over cheese. In small bowl, stir together ricotta and vanilla bean paste; dollop on squash. Sprinkle tart with rosemary. Transfer to oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is deep golden brown. Transfer to wire rack; let stand 10 minutes. Slice and serve warm.
Home Chef Tip: Baking the crust before filling it and baking it again is called "blind baking," and it's essential in this recipe. If you skip this step, the bottom crust will never get browned and will just be soggy, raw dough. Don't skip this step!
Disclosure: This was a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Nielsen-Massey. Sponsored posts help me pay for the costs associated with this blog (groceries…lots of groceries), and help support me as I pursue a career in recipe development and food photography. All opinions are 100% my own.