My recent posts have included photos of Ohio’s fall foliage, snapshots from around the farm, and glimpses of pumpkin picking with the kids, and while our time in the Midwest won’t conclude for another week, this will be the last installment of things-we’re-doing-here pictures. This trip has been an adventure, a welcome rest from routine, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it, too. I’m uncertain whether I’m ready to go back to Seattle, though I’ve resolved to not think about that just yet.
The anticipation started building the moment we booked our plane tickets. Every autumn we yearn to attend the Circleville Pumpkin Show, so it was quite special that it coincided with our visit this year. For four days, the streets of downtown are blocked off with carnival rides, giant pumpkin displays, and myriad vendors displacing the usual traffic. Area bands march in nightly parades, and events like the hog-calling contest elicit roars of laughter. The experience was different this year, having the kids in tow, but overall, it proved to be a fun and delicious time.
One of the most intriguing things about the Pumpkin Show is the food. Typical fair eats are available in abundance, and while we undoubtedly had our share of deep-fried favorites, it’s always neat to see the various pumpkin-inspired items available for sale. This year featured a few savory dishes such as pumpkin burgers and pumpkin chili, but the sweets were in majority. Fudge, cupcakes, waffles, elephant ears, ice cream, pie, donuts – all were present with a pumpkin twist.
This year, my eyes spotted something I hadn’t noticed before: locally made pumpkin butter. My interest was piqued immediately, and I knew I wanted to take a jar home with me. I’ve been scheming for awhile to develop a tart recipe that towed the sweet-savory line, so this seemed like just the ticket.
A slathering of pumpkin butter atop buttery puff pastry and capped with a sprinkling of caramelized onions and smoky white cheddar makes for a simple yet sophisticated appetizer. Each ingredient is packed with depth and richness, resulting in a flavor profile that is surprisingly reminiscent of a well-developed barbecue sauce. When I was cooking the onions, I accidentally caramelized them more than I intended, but I think you’ll agree that their extra dark, rich sweetness is a major asset here.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 cups sliced onions (1/4-inch thickness)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1-2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- 3/4 cup pumpkin butter
- 3/4 cup finely grated smoked white cheddar cheese
- In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion slices, then season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook the onions for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally and deglazing the pan with splashes of chicken stock whenever the onions start to stick. Allow the liquid to cook off before adding more. Continue this process until the onions are dark and caramelized. Reduce the heat slightly if needed to prevent scorching.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- To assemble the tart(s), remove each puff pastry sheet from the package, unfold it gently, and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If your pan is long enough, you can place the two pieces of pastry end to end to create a single, larger tart, but in my case, I had to split them between two pans.
- Apply a not-too-thin layer of pumpkin butter to the puff pastry, leaving a ½-inch border around the perimeter, distribute the caramelized onions over that, and finally, sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake tart(s) for 20-22 minutes until the edges become golden.