Remember that beautiful bunch of produce that our CSA farmer brought us? Remember how excited I was to scour the internet and discover new recipes? This warm butternut squash and chickpea salad was the highlight of those CSA-inspired productions, the winningest of many winsome dishes that emerged from our kitchen that week. No amount of thinking or imagining the tastes of butternut squash, of chickpeas, of lemon and tahini could have prepared me for the glory of their powers combined. This dish, with its humble-looking and, frankly, kind of odd-sounding combination of flavors, textures and colors, is nothing short of sublime. It’s bafflingly simple, unique, delicious, and just plain sock-rockingly amazing. You need it. In your mouth. But be warned, once a bite passes your lips, you will never be the same.
No more will you pass a butternut squash by in the market without fantasizing about a nutty, tangy, herbacious and oh sofresh tahini sauce dripping down its curves. If ever a tender chickpea bursts out of its see-through skin between your teeth, your mind will take you away to the time you had those chickpeas nestled between sumptuous butternuts and bitey, fiesty onions, and your cheeks will flush when you realize you need to excuse yourself to the bathroom to wipe the thin stream of drool from your chin. You’ll wonder things like really, how often is too often? Do I have a big enough container for a quadruple batch? What will my coworkers think if I eat this for lunch every single day?
But, be assured, it’s worth it. Try it, and please, tell me how you liked it. And remember: everything in moderation, including moderation.
Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
for the salad:
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice (optional, methinks. Smitten skips and I skips, too.)
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
- 1/4 medium red onion, finely chopped (I used a Vidalia; it’s what I had)
- a few good pinches of chopped fresh cilantro (I used two cubes of Dorot’s cilantro) or substitute parsley if you must, cilantro haters!
for the dressing:
- 1 clove garlic, 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
Heat oven to 425°F.
In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, garlic, allspice (if using), olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated. Roast them on a baking sheet for 15-25 minutes until soft. Remove from oven and set aside.
While the roasted squash cools, prepare the 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. It should be pleasantly nutty with a zesty kick from the lemon. If it tastes overly bitter or sour, add another tablespoon or so of olive oil to round it out.
Assemble the salad by combining the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro (or parsley) in a mixing bowl. Add the tahini dressing to taste and gently toss, or serve the salad with the dressing on the side. Eat warm and enjoy.