Squash season is upon us, and although I suppose you could call this a crustless tart, layer cake just sounded so much more tempting!
This gorgeous flower of lacy, buttery roasted squash, richly savory caramelized onion, fresh sage, and a smattering of fresno chile and garlic makes for a gorgeous holiday side or vegetarian main worthy of double take title lol. Enjoy!
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, minced or thinly sliced
1 fresno chili, minced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 (3-pound) butternut squash (6-pounds total)
Olive oil cooking spray
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese plus 2 tablespoons for finishing
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs, lightly toasted*
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, to garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
•In a large nonstick saute pan add the olive oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add the onions and allow to cook until caramelized and deeply golden, at least 20 and ideally 30-45 minutes to really bring out that gorgeous deep, golden brown color and maximum sweetness. As the onions cook, stir fairly frequently and deglaze the bottom of the pan with a little bit of water throughout the cooking process to prevent burning and allow the caramelization process to continue. Since you’re spending the time, make a bunch and you can freeze batches of caramelized onions and use in future recipes! But I digress.
•Once the onions have caramelized, add the fresno chili, garlic, sage, and onion powder and season with salt. Cook an additional minute until fragrant and remove from the heat. Allow to cool slightly, there should be about 1 cup of this onion mixture.
•Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Use just the necks of the squash only, reserve the bottoms of the squash to roast for another meal… cubed roasted squash with yogurt and pine nuts, butternut squash soup with cumin and pomegranate seeds, you get the picture. Peel the necks of the butternut squash and cut in half lengthwise into a half moon shape. Thinly slice the necks of the butternut squash carefully on a mandolin 1/8-inch thick. The goal is to have squash pieces with uniform shape and thickness here. Ultimately you should end up with about 9 cups of squash cut into thin half moons.
•Lightly grease a 10-inch nonstick springform pan with olive oil cooking spray and wrap the bottom of the pan with foil or parchment paper. Begin to layer the half moon shaped pieces of squash into the bottom of the pan, starting from the outside ring and working your way inwards. Be sure to partially overlap the squash pieces—the resulting layer with look like a flower. Lightly spray with olive oil and evenly scatter a little more than 2 tablespoons of the caramelized onion mixture over the squash. Sprinkle with a scant 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese (you will use only the 1/3 cup parmesan in the layering process). Season each layer with a little pinch of salt (the parm adds nice saltiness so not as much salt is needed). Repeat this layering another 5 times for a total of 6 layers. Add one more layer of squash on top of the final layer of parmesan and spray lightly with cooking spray.
•Cover the pan with foil, place on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet into the oven to bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the squash is just tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife (it shouldn’t be too buttery soft because remember it continues to cook as it cools!). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes, this helps the cake to set.
•After cooling slightly, preheat the broiler. Carefully remove the outer ring of the springform pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs. Place under the broiler and allow to broil for about 2 minutes, watching carefully, until cheese has melted and panko is a deeply golden to create a delicious crunchy top.
•Remove from the oven and allow to cool again for 10 to 15 minutes to make it easier to slice, then garnish with parsley. Slice and enjoy!
*Toasting Panko Breadcrumbs: You can toast panko breadcrumbs in a 350F oven on a dry baking sheet to develop a little color before using them to top your cake. Alternatively, I like toasting them in a sauté pan with a small pat of butter to really develop and maximize their buttery crunch.