Whether you’re quoting Ecclesiastes or the Byrds, it’s true that for everything, there is a season.
In the kitchen, that means jump-starting a stalled menu with some new flavors. Plus, eating the harvest simply feels right. As anyone who’s ever taken a bite of pumpkin pie in May knows, certain foods are a turn, turn, turnoff when served out of season.
Autumn dinners are well-served by a savory tart that combines the sweetness of butternut squash, the earthiness of chard and the creamy saltiness of Fontina cheese, all bound by an eggy custard.
Even better, the crust bypasses the usual buttery route and instead uses spelt flour, olive oil and a bit of yeast to make a tender, slightly chewy shell that adds protein to each bite.
Spelt is an ancient flour now being rediscovered as a “super grain” touted for its nutty flavor and its high proportion of protein and fiber. While not gluten-free, spelt is considered more easily digested than other forms of wheat. It’s found in most co-ops, and is becoming more available in many supermarkets. Bob’s Red Mill is one widely known brand.
Tarts presume a certain amount of fuss — with results that are worth it, of course — and this one is no exception. Each ingredient needs a bit of cooking prep, but nothing complicated.
Life is simpler if you choose a butternut squash with the longest neck possible, which enables you to get more of the consistent discs that make an especially attractive tart. In any case, you’ll want to peel and slice the squash, then roast the pieces for about 30 minutes to deepen the flavor before nestling them within the tart shell.
The chard — and you can use spinach or kale if you prefer, or whatever looks best in the market that day — needs only a wash, then a quick sauté until it just wilts, about five minutes.
The spelt dough comes together about that quickly. After a two-minute knead, it’s rolled out and tucked into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Scattering cheese on the “floor” of the tart helps keep any sogginess at bay. Add most of the chard, then arrange the squash discs in an overlapping design, filling in the gaps with the remaining chard. A mixture of eggs and cream laced with a crucial bit of fresh nutmeg goes over all.
The resulting tart is striking with its play of deep green and orange, and its flavors are a welcome taste of autumn.
There is a time to harvest, and a time to bake. Eat, eat, eat.