Spicy Squash and Feta Puff Pastry Tarts

December 17, 2011

For my December baking class, I taught my students how to work with store-bought filo dough and puff pastry.  We also made no-knead bread, a gorgeous beet tart, and that incredible brown sugar pound cake.  For the puff pastry, I was planning on doing some classic riff on butternut squash, leeks, and thyme.  Until I flipped through the appetizer section of a new-to-me cookbook and found a version using squash, spicy harissa, and feta cheese.  Hello?  Hello!

I tested the recipe for a party we threw for Randy’s work.  I tweaked it a bit.  I wondered if it would be too spicy or too out-there for a group of people I didn’t really know.  It was one of those times when I put the plate of mini-tarts out, turned my back for a moment or two to finish something at the stove, turned back around to find them gone.  Gone.  I got more comments on those little tarts than I did on anything else I made for that night (including a very cool Bûche de Noël – recipe coming soon).

When I made them for the party, I used my default favorite squash – the delicata.  I love those little guys for their ease of preparation (you don’t have to peel them) and for their subtle flavor.  But I didn’t like how the slices looked on the tart and I think the flavor got lost.  When I made them for the class (and the subsequent times after – yes, I’ve made them three times in two weeks), I used butternut.  I advise looking for a squash with a long neck since the slices you get from the neck are more uniform than the ones you get from the body.  Unless you are able to find a very small squash, you will likely have leftovers.  Personally, having a little stash of roasted squash in my refrigerator to add to all manner of things (risotto, pasta, soup, salad), makes me very happy.

Now permit me a paragraph of utter geekdom as I talk about store-bought puff pastry.  Having used it for years and now having taught how to work with it to several classes, I know a thing or two about it.  Let’s start with the fact that you don’t want to use Pepperidge Farm if you can possibly help it.  I know it is widely available and I know it is cheap, but I also know that puff pastry should only contain three ingredients (flour, butter, and salt), and possibly four (sugar).  Pepperidge Farm not only is not an all-butter puff, it is a no-butter puff.  There is a long list of ingredients on the side of the package, not one of them is butter and most of them I can’t pronounce.  So unless that is your only option, steer clear.  In Seattle, we are lucky to have two excellent sources of store-bought puff – DeLaurenti and Grand Central Bakery.  Both are affordable and terrific and only contain the three or four ingredients I mentioned.  Nationally, Trader Joe’s carries puff pastry seasonally, and that season is right now.  I tried it for the first time recently and found it to be fine.  Not terrific but good, four ingredients, affordable.  So stock up!  One other option if price is not an issue is DuFour, an exquisite puff that comes with the exquisite price tag of $16/pound.

Each type of store-bought puff (and yes, I am aware on into my second paragraph of geeking out) comes in a different amount, so be flexible when working with this recipe.  I call for 12 ounces because I tested it using the DeLaurenti brand and theirs comes in a 12-ounce sheet.  Yours might be different.  It’s all good – just roll with it.  No pun intended.  Also, remember you can make these lovely spicy pastries bite-size or larger for more of a substantial first course.  You could even serve them as a main course.

One Year Ago:  Sweet & Salty Brownie
Two Years Ago:  Caramel Chocolate Treasures
Three Years Ago:  Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread

Spicy Squash and Feta Puff Pastry Tarts

Inspired by Vegetarian
Makes about 16-32 tarts (depending on how you cut them)

1 medium butternut squash, preferably one with a long neck
Olive oil
Kosher salt
7 ounces Fage 2% Greek yogurt
1-2 tbsp. harissa
7 ounces feta cheese, 2 ounces crumbled finely, 5 ounces cut into small cubes
12 ounces all-butter puff pastry
4 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Peel and seed the squash.  Split the neck in half and thinly slice into semi-circles.  Slice the base into thin crescents.  Put all the squash onto a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a large pinch of salt.  Use your hands to mix together well.  Spread out on the sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until tender.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Mix together the Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of the harissa, and the 2 ounces of crumbled feta.  Taste it and add more harissa if you would like more heat. Set aside.

Unfold the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll it out with a rolling pin, just to even out the folds and to make an even rectangle.  Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut into 16 rectangles.  If you are making cocktail sized appetizers, cut each rectangle in half.

Transfer the rectangles to two baking sheets.  Spoon about a tablespoon of the yogurt mixture onto each rectangle and top with a slice of squash.  Add one or two cubes of feta to each pastry.  Repeat with the remaining rectangles.  Sprinkle them all with thyme and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden.  Serve warm or cool the tarts on a wire rack.



  1. oh i love this! there is so much puff pastry flying around this season but THIS sounds different and completely tasty! I could even see putting the toppings on a larger flatbread for dinner if I didn’t need appetizers? You’re great. Hope the holidays are treating you well, friend.

    Comment by sara — December 18, 2011 @ 2:30 am

  2. I wonder if Whole Foods has a good four ingredient puff…I’ve never looked! Or I could just make it myself…excessive perhaps. But fun? Absolutely.

    I could totally eat this for dinner. It wouldn’t even be intentional. I might MEAN to have it as an appetizer…but who can stop at just one?

    Comment by Joanne — December 18, 2011 @ 3:32 am

  3. I so want to make these for Christmas, but it will just be me and my husband, so I’ll save them for the next gathering we host. They look so good!

    Comment by Anna — December 18, 2011 @ 4:28 am

  4. These sound delightful!

    Comment by Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — December 18, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  5. These are mouthwatering. I completely agree with you regarding the puff pastry geekdom. I haven’t worked with store-bought puff pastry before but I have used pre-made pie crusts and feel very strongly about what should be in the ingredient list. Thanks for the recipe!

    Comment by hännah @ dishesanddishes — December 20, 2011 @ 4:07 am

  6. These look so good!! I already got the ingredients and am going to make them for our champagne and appetizer feast on xmas day. im using crumbled goat chz instead… thx for the great idea!

    Comment by brooke — December 21, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

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