It was tasty with the bonus of also being quite pretty.
McKenna wrote the cookbook during the first pandemic lockdown in the United Kingdom when many of us began limiting our trips to the grocery and focused more on eating from our pantries. The lovely cookbook includes what she calls “cupboard standbys,” which are recipes that rely on pastas, canned tomatoes and few ingredients.
If you keep phyllo on hand, and I do, this recipe falls squarely in cook-with-what-you-have category. I made a tart with butternut squash, kalamata olives, feta and thyme as McKenna directed. Shortly after that, I ended up with leftover rutabaga, so I peeled, diced and roasted it — it takes a lot longer to get tender than butternut squash — and filled the tart with that root vegetable along with grated Gruyere, olives and dried rosemary.
Now, this quick tart preparation will likely pop into my head anytime I have leftover roasted root vegetables.
The crispness of phyllo is so appealing, but working with it can be a little intimidating because it is delicate — the thin sheets tear so easily and dry out so quickly. That’s what makes this a great starter phyllo recipe for home cooks. To make it, you line a baking sheet, rimless if you have one, with parchment paper and then lay sheets of phyllo down one after another, turning each one just a little to create a starlike effect. Don’t stress about getting it too perfect. If the sheets tear a little, that’s okay, too.
Then, you fill the center with vegetables, cheese and any other ingredients or herbs you like and fold the edges of the dough over to form a wreath-like circle. Finally, brush the phyllo with a little oil and slip the tart into the oven for about 15 minutes.
If you’re not used to having phyllo on hand, you should to consider it. Any leftover dough should last for several weeks in the refrigerator. Most brands refreeze well, too. In either case, it is important to expose the dough to as little air as possible while using it and to wrap any leftovers tightly in plastic, pressing out any air.
I’ve stored the phyllo and am taking a break from the tart, but then I was eyeing some near-their-expiration red potatoes in my kitchen and thinking I’ll make it again, maybe with roasted potato, fontina and chives.
One downside: This tart is best if eaten right away. It is small, so you probably can do just that, but if you do have leftovers, cover it and refrigerate it for a day. Then, remove the tart from the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 350. Heat until just warm, about 10 minutes. The phyllo will get super crispy, but it is still quite tasty.
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing pastry
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 sheets phyllo dough
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 12 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dry
- 2 teaspoons honey
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
On a large, rimmed baking sheet, arrange the squash, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the pepper flakes and black pepper. Toss with your hands to coat.
Roast for 15 minutes, or until just tender. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
When the squash is almost done, line a large rimless baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay one sheet of phyllo on the pan and place each additional sheet on top at different angles to create a starlike shape.
Arrange the roasted squash in the center of the phyllo, leaving about 1 1/2-inch border uncovered. Sprinkle the feta, olives and thyme over the squash. Drizzle the honey on top.
Fold the edges of the pastry around the filling and brush it lightly with the olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden.
Let cool for about 2 minutes before slicing and serving.
(Based on 4 servings.)
Calories: 315; Total Fat: 16 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 13 mg; Sodium: 577 mg; Carbohydrates: 38 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 5 g; Protein: 6 g.
Adapted from “Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen” by Clodagh McKenna (Kyle Books, 2021)
Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to email@example.com.
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