So often, and particularly this time of year, cooking is a solitary act — but entertaining and eating are group affairs. I leave goat cheese and mushrooms on the grocery store shelves because a certain someone cannot stand to eat either, I make sure my guests allergies and dislikes are catered to and that the food I serve is plentiful and at the right temperature. But, if you were ever curious as to what I would eat if left completely to my own devices this salad you see pictured here would be it.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite things and is only at its best this time of year. I eat it in soups, roasted with sage as a side dish and warm in this perfect, hearty little salad. When I come home from work I crank on the oven, peel and cube some squash, open a can of chickpeas and mince some onion and herbs. By the time the squash is done roasting in the oven, I have found the quintessential balance of nutty tahini and tart lemon juice in my salad dressing and I toss everything together in a large bowl. I have been know to eat this salad standing up in the kitchen, enjoying every last morsel of warm squash coated in the bright, slightly thick dressing. The recipe below adequately serves four, but I usually halve the original directions and share it only with myself — the one Scrooge maneuver I allow myself this time of year.
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 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/2t ground allspice
2T olive oil
15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4c coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
For the tahini dressing:
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt
1/4c lemon juice, from about 2 lemons
3T well-stirred tahini
2T water, plus more to taste
2T olive oil, plus more to taste
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
On a large baking sheet, combine the butternut squash, garlic, allspice, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Using your hands, 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.
While the squash is cooking, 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.
In a medium to large serving bowl, combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro or parsley. Either add the tahini dressing to taste, and toss carefully, or you could serve the salad with the dressing on the side. Serve right away.