Butternut Squash & Spinach Tart

The winter blues have set in. Though it has been a mild winter, it has done nothing to alleviate my yearly winter woes. I'm never certain for the reason. Perhaps I lack a good dose of vitamin D or maybe I've simply been too sedentary for too long. Whatever the reason may be, the results are always the same. My dark summer tan has faded, turning my skin fair and transparent. I've gained a few pounds from indulging in my favorite comfort foods. Maybe the worst of all, the only time I spend outside is to run from my car to the house not more than twice a day.

Oh, how the winter blues have set in.

I've spent the last few days brooding, giving in to my jaded mood because fighting it just takes too much energy. I'm not proud of these foul inclinations, where I shirk responsibilities and snap at anyone who dares to come close. I've been lying around, finding myself curled up next to a book or television remote. I've eaten the pantry clean, a feat of which no one should be proud. I've avoided sending emails, baking, or taking photographs for fear I should spread the mood to you.

Even so, my blues always reaches the point where enough is finally enough.

This morning I awoke to a warm winter sun streaming through the windowpanes, the diffuse light brightening my world and giving a spark of light to my dark mood. I ate a grapefruit, giving myself a little vitamin C with a side of TLC. I took a shower to wash away the matted hair and days spent in sweatpants and thick sweaters. Then, I did something I haven't done in a long time. I left the house.

The cure to the winter gloom, thankfully, is never too far away.

This Butternut Squash & Spinach Tart is so fresh and vibrant it can breathe hope into the worst of winter blues. Spinach, roasted butternut squash, and half a pound of Gruyere cheese come together to create a hearty, colorful meal. The sweet squash contrasts beautifully against the salty cheese, with the rich buttery crust rounding out the flavors. This tart makes for a perfect Sunday meal, when you have a few moments to prepare it. Ever adaptable, pumpkin may be substituted for the squash and your favorite hard, melting cheese could be used in place of the Gruyere.

One Year Ago: Cinnamon Sugar Toast

Butternut Squash & Spinach Tart
Inspired by Roast Figs Sugar Snow

Yields 1 9-inch tart

Tart Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cold water

Butternut Squash & Spinach Filling
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 to 2 lb butternut squash, peeled and roasted (bake at 350 degrees (180 degrees C) for 20-30 minutes, or until fork tender)
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed

To make the crust, process together the flours, butter, and salt in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse sand. Alternatively, you can cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or your hands. Add just enough cold water to bring dough together into a ball (about 2-4 tablespoons). Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.

When dough is chilled, roll out to fit tart pan and chill for an additional 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Prick the bottom of the tart crust with a fork a few dozen times to prevent crust from rising and bake for 11-12 minutes. Keep oven running.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and nutmeg. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside. Cut roasted butternut squash into 1/4-inch slices. Press all excess moisture out of spinach leaves.

In the baked tart shell, sprinkle 1/2 of the grated Gruyere cheese and 3/4 of the spinach onto the bottom. Layer in the butternut squash slices and the rest of the Gruyere cheese. Sprinkle the remaining spinach for garnish. Pour cream filling evenly over the top of the tart. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow tart to rest for 10 minutes before cutting in it for the custard to fully set.

Serve hot.