Thursday, August 16, 2012

Delicata Tart

I had several delicata squash on the counter, and some really nice butter in the fridge, so it seemed like the perfect time to make a squash tart.

Delicata squash are beautifully striped and mildly nutty in flavor. They're similar in taste to butternut or acorn squash, and take very well to roasting. Here's what they look like when you roast them and take a scoop out of one to taste it:

We cook a lot at home, and I couldn't believe the effort-to-deliciousness ratio in this dish. It was super-easy to make, and I did it all with ingredients I had on hand. The old man and I ate it for dinner, then for breakfast the next morning with scrambled eggs and green-chile yogurt sauce. I took it to the office and ate it cold for lunch. All good. All very good.

Here's what I did:
After roasting three medium squashes, I removed all their flesh and mashed it with my hands. (Yes, that happened. I forgot the potato masher had broken, strangely enough, and the fork was just too slow.) Then I mixed in two small onions that I'd caramelized in butter, one farm egg, a good handful of grated Parmesan, a few big spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, and salt and pepper.

I prepared a butter-rich tart dough, pressed it into the pan, and baked it.

And after

Then I crumbled a few ounces of blue cheese in the baked tart shell, spread the filling on and baked it until set.

Then I went nuts waiting for the thing to cool. But man, it was worth it. The crust had a wonderfully nutty brown-butter flavor, which went perfectly with the sweet squash. And the piquant blue cheese added really good saltiness. 

Delicata Squash Tart
1 recipe tart dough
3 delicata squash
1 tsp. vegetable oil
2 T. butter
2 small onions, thinly sliced
1 oz. Parmesan, finely grated
1/3 c. Greek yogurt
1 egg
Salt and pepper
3 oz. blue cheese

Prepare and bake the tart dough. Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. (You can bake them like pumpkin seeds, or discard them.) Rub the oil on the cut sides of the squash, and place face-down on a baking sheet. Bake until easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on.When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh from the skins into a medium mixing bowl and mash until mostly smooth.

While the squash is roasting, caramelize the onions: melt the butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until well browned, stirring often (this can take 30 minutes or more, but the flavor is worth it).

Add the onions to the squash, then stir in the Parmesan, yogurt, egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Crumble the blue cheese into the bottom of the tart shell, then spoon and spread the squash mixture over it.

Bake in the center of the oven until set, about 35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, slice, and serve.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Papalote Taco House


You can find good food in unexpected places in Austin. In other cities I've lived in, strip-mall restaurants were usually best avoided. 

Here though, strip malls are perfectly good (sometimes really good) places to find restaurants.

Papalote Taco House, which shares a block with a ThunderCloud Subs shop, looks kind of surf-y on the outside, and has very good tacos inside.

For a small place, they have some excellent vegetarian options. Their tortillas are store bought, but the corn tortillas are simple and nice and corny. 

I don't think I've ever left the place without eating one of their Tortas de Coliflor tacos. The tortas are little cakes of cooked and mashed cauliflower mixed with cheese, fried and coated with a bittersweet guajillo chili sauce. Topped with a little bit of shredded cabbage, queso fresco, and a sliver of avocado, they're salty, sweet, spicy, and a little bitter. 

And though the guajillo sauce is spicy, I can't resist a little bit of their green sauce.

Tortas de coliflor and hongos y epazote tacos

The Mushroom y Epazote taco is earthy and rich, with lots of chewy hominy. (I like to mix the red and green sauces on this one.)