Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing

by Cate on September 20, 2010

OMG Good

I don’t think I have ever had butternut squash.
Acorn squash, yes.  My mom used to roast it with all that brown sugar goodness when we were kids, making us completely forget its healthy qualities, but making it oh-so-amazing good.
But butternut squash?  I don’t think I have ever bought it.  Eaten it.  Cooked it.  Negative on all counts.
Until yesterday.

And I happened on the recipe a little fortuitously, the way all good things seem to come about, of course.   I was at the farmers’ market with a few friends from high school and I ran into an old friend, Jessica, from my first supper club.  I haven’t seen her since her oldest son was still in utero, so, yeah, it’s been awhile since Sawyer is now in school.

Of course, the first questions are always “what are you cooking tonight?”  I had plans for a Beef and Black Bean Burger and a nearly mayo-free Macaroni Salad (both new recipes, one of which you’ll hear about soon), and somehow we got on the topic of butternut squash, and Jessica mentioned this “phenomenal” recipe.   And suddenly, the person who had never eaten (let alone) cooked butternut squash in forty years (that would be me) was searching the nearest farmers’ market stall for squash.

The mix of ingredients in the recipe furrowed my brow a bit, I have to say, but I trust her, having had many wonderful creations from her kitchen over the years.   I actually already had all the other ingredients I’d need on hand already, so it was more than meant to be.

After Madeline went down for her nap, I got to work in the kitchen, trying to get most of dinner done while she slept, and before our guests arrived.  Holy heck, is butternut squash the hardest thing to peel and chop or what?  Like, I had to get out my I’m-afraid-to-use-them-because I have-10-stitches-in-my-hand sharp knives for this.  But I forged ahead.

I slipped the chopped pieces of squash into the oven and let them roast for the 25 minutes the recipe called for.  Once out and cooled down a bit, I snuck a piece to see what it tasted like.  And another.  And another.  I swear, if I didn’t need them for a recipe, I probably could have eaten the roasted squash as is.

But then the tahini dressing.  And the chick peas.  And then blend.  And another taste.  Oh my god.  Seriously.  If you trust me (and why wouldn’t you?!), you must make this.  Like I don’t even know how we lived with this before.  Everything just comes together magically.  As if these ingredients, though seemingly worlds apart, were somehow created to be together.  I mentioned the recipe on Facebook and a local friend commented on how good it sounded.  Usually I would drop some off while doing errands.  But not this time.  Because there’s only a teensy little bit left from last night’s dinner and today’s lunch.  And I’m going to be greedy.  And enjoy every last speck myself.  But I’ll make it again this week, and then I’ll share.  And in the meantime, I’ve shared with you.  So now it’s your turn – go make it and be greedy.  And then make it again and share.  And then come back and thank me for sharing this with you… and breaking the never-had-it-before-butternut-squash cycle.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.  Not one bit.

Project 365
September 20, 2010, Photo #166

Honey Problems

What is the secret so that your honey doesn’t end up like this?  What am I missing?  I happened to spy a supersized bottle of honey on my parents kitchen table … besides the fact that I want to know how they go through that much honey when it’s just the two of them, I want to know why theirs doesn’t crystallize and my little containers do.  I have thrown caution to the wind before and nuked the bottle for just a few seconds to loosen it up, but there must be another trick I’m missing.  Help?

Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing
From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Orangette, who adapted it from Casa Moro

Yield: 4 servings

For salad:
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice (I skipped)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1-1/2 cups)
1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

For tahini dressing:
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, garlic, allspice, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated. Roast them on a baking sheet for 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. The sauce should have plenty of nutty tahini flavor, but also a little kick of lemon. You will probably need to add more water to thin it out.

To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro or parsley in a mixing bowl. Either add the tahini dressing to taste, and toss carefully, or you could serve the salad with the dressing on the side. Serve immediately.

Do ahead: Molly says this salad, lightly dressed, keeps beautifully in the fridge, that you should hold a little of the dressing on the side and that it can be reheated in the microwave.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Faye September 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Hint: If you microwave the WHOLE squash for several minutes (depending on the size) let it cool slightly…it will peel SO much easier. By the way, we love roasted butternut..and we have LOTS in the garden this year.

Reply

stephanie September 21, 2010 at 12:55 am

if you have a trader joe’s near by, they have already cut & peeled butternut squash & its delicious!

Reply

Merry120 September 21, 2010 at 1:11 am

I quit buying honey b/c mine always crystallized too. I thought it was because I live in Calgary and it’s super dry here.

I started buying agave nectar instead. It works the same, tastes similar and doesn’t crystallize.

Reply

Joanne September 21, 2010 at 6:18 am

I think this recipe has made its rounds around the blogosphere a few times over and for good reason. I made it last year…and oh my god was it good. Actually I should make it again as an excuse to update the photos.

All winter squash is a total addiction of mine. Once they’re in season, I can’t go a week without em!

Reply

Angie September 21, 2010 at 6:51 am

This recipe sounds amazing! I can’t wait to give it a try. But before you end up with fresh sutures, try poking some holes in that squash and nuking it for 5 minutes or so. It’ll soften it just enough to make peeling and dicing a breeze! Thanks for the fabulous recipe!

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beth September 21, 2010 at 9:07 am

next time we get together for dinner i will make you my incredibly good and 100% clean butternut squash and apple soup. you will be completely converted to the stuff. it’s divine and couldn’t be easier to make.

Reply

Ramona September 21, 2010 at 10:56 am

Butternut squash, chickpeas and tahini are not common ingredients in our kitchen.

But, since you gave this one such high praises, I’m thinking of buying them to give it a try.

Reply

paula September 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Same thing happens to my honey. I soak the bottle in hot water.

Reply

Cindy September 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I don’t know how to keep the honey from crystallizing either, but like another poster – I have switched to agave nectar. It works like honey and the carb count is a little bit less and it works for my husband’s diabetic needs.

Reply

Shannon September 21, 2010 at 11:11 pm

i’ve made this one, too, and it’s absolutely fabulous! butternut is probably my favorite winter squash… can’t wait to pick up my first one :)

Reply

Kris #40 September 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I’ve been dreaming of butternut squash since you posted this recipe last week. Right after that we went to Wrightman farms out past St. Clare’s and found it there so I promptly bought one to try. It’s been sitting on my counter all week and tonight finally cut it up it french fry shapes, coated with some pam and kosher salt and roasted at 425 for 45 mins. – OMG!

I only cooked a small portion of it for my 1 point WW serving, but will cook up the rest SOON!

I just wanted to let you know how many different things I have tried since I started reading your blog that I would have never thought of trying.

Reply

Kris #40 September 28, 2010 at 8:27 am

Not wrightman – it’s Hamilton Farms on Old Denville Road

Reply

Cate September 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Kris – aw, that’s very kind of you to say. Love that you’re trying new things! Isn’t the squash amazing just roasted as is? Love Hamilton Farms!

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