Question: Did any of you watch the last season of Food Network Star? I only started tuning in last season, but I was immediately hooked. Ever since Damaris was named the next star of the series, I’ve been waiting for her Food Network Magazine feature to arrive at my front door. Food Network Magaine is the only magazine that Tim and I still get delivered to our apartment, and we love flipping through it every month. When the  November issue arrived, I was stoked to discover it not only had Damaris’ victory feature, but also a simple Thanksgiving appetizer recipe recommendation from her.

I decided to bring this dish for my appetizer contribution to Thanksgiving at my grandfather’s house. Not only was it easy to make, but it was relatively healthy… and yummy too.

Squash Tartlets with Kale PestoThe original recipe called for a kabocha squash. I had no idea what a kabocha squash was, so I had to look it up. I learned that a kabocha squash is a popular winter squash. Picture the greenish-yellow squash variety in the grocery store that kind of look like small little pumpkins, and you’ve got your kabocha squash visual. However, when I went to the store, the ones that I thought were kabocha squash were labeled buttercup squash instead, not to be confused with butterNUT. After a little help from the world-wide web, I then learned that both kabocha and buttercup squash are in the same squash family, they can be substituted for each other, but they are not the same. Regardless, both are very sweet and creamy, even more so than butternut squash (my fave) is.

Long story long, buttercup squash it was! I also made some further adjustments to Damaris’ original recipe, as noted below.

Squash Tartlets with Kale Pesto


  • 2 small buttercup squash (peeled, seeded and diced) — original recipe called for kabocha
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil – original recipe called for coconut oil, but my uncle is allergic!
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds – original recipe called for pecans, but my other uncle thinks he’s allergic (he’s not)
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby kale
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 30 frozen mini phyllo shells, thawed
  • Grated gruyere cheese – you could also use gouda cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the squash and unpeeled garlic with the grape seed oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, then roast. Toss halfway through until the squash is tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  3. After the squash is cooking, make the pesto. First, peel the roasted garlic. Mash with the flat side of a chef’s knife to make a paste; transfer to a food processor. Add the sunflower seeds, and pulse until finely ground. Add the kale and pulse until chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil and purée until smooth.
  4. Arrange the phyllo shells on a baking sheet. Add about 1 teaspoon pesto to each. Then add 1 or 2 pieces of squash and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.
  5. Serve warm and enjoy!

Kale PestoSquash Tartlets with Kale PestoKale Pesto Squash Tartlets with Kale PestoThese were a crowd pleaser. At least I assume they were since there were none left by the time I left my grandfather’s house! The squash was definitely creamier than other squash varieties, so the internet didn’t fail with educating me, but I think they would be just as delicious using your regular ole butternut if you prefer. I also enjoyed being different by making a pesto with kale instead of the more traditional basil recipes. I don’t LOVE kale on its own, but I like discovering new ways to cook with it, and this recipe was a great find.

Next time you have to bring an appetizer with you to a party, give this one a whirl!
–Let’s chat–
What’s your favorite kind of squash? Favorite pesto? Favorite appetizer dish?