This time of year makes me think of winter squash. While I dread winter, I do have a thing for winter squash varietals. My favorites: kabocha, kuri, and hubbard. Find myself bringing one home every time I go to the market, and have amassed a nice little collection on my countertop. Sometimes when I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll run to the market (it’s only a few miles away), but then have to trek back, balancing my squash. I run there, but walk back — in case you were wondering. Can’t imagine trying to run while carrying a squash, not to mention the strange glances doing so might attract. One problem, I’ve been buying squash faster than I can conjure up new and interesting ideas regarding how to use them . I tend to gravitate towards savory dishes, but once in a while I have a bit of a sweet tooth, but not over the top super syrupy sweet; rather just a hint of sweetness.
This pastry is based on a traditional Bulgarian dessert called Tikvenik — made from pumpkin and walnuts wrapped in filo.
I tweaked it a bit and substituted pistachios for the walnuts, and winter squash puree for the pumpkin. Filo can be a bit tricky to work with since it tends to dry out pretty quickly when exposed to air. To prevent from drying out, lay a piece of parchment on your countertop. Unroll the filo very gently and lay flat onto the parchment paper. Lay another parchment piece over top of the exposed filo, and place a damp kitchen towel on top of the parchment paper. This will prevent the filo from drying out while you are working with it. And don’t worry if a sheet gets torn, you can patch it back together when you brush with oil or butter, no one will know the difference.
These pastries are best when they first come out of the oven and the filling is warm and the filo is flaky and crispy. As they sit, the filo will soften, but they can be reheated in the oven and will return to their crispy and flaky state.
Kabocha Squash and Pistachio Filo Rolls
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped, plus a little extra finely chopped for topping
1 package (1 pound) filo dough
Melted butter (or oil or mix of the two) for brushing the filo
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
To prepare the squash, peel and cube, and then steam until tender. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend to a smooth puree. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon to the squash puree. Fold in the chopped pistachios. Can be prepared in advance.
Take one sheet of filo and brush with butter. Fold in half. Spoon ~ 2 tablespoons filling in the bottom of the sheet (leaving about 1 inch on the sides). Roll once or twice and then fold in the right side, then the left side. Continue to roll. Just before you get to the end, brush the remaining filo with a little butter.
Place the roll on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and brush the top with a little butter. Sprinkle the top with some chopped pistachios. Repeat with the remaining squash.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown.
Place the filo rolls on a baking rack to cool. When cool dust with a little powdered sugar.