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.
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.
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?
Yield: 4 servings
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
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.