Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or, to put it another way, I lost my round of The Piglet. Granted, there was no way I could ever have triumphed over Naomi Duguid’s brilliant Burma. She totally deserved her win.

But I have to confess, I took great comfort the next day when Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem joined me on the loser’s bench. It helped me realize how arbitrary this all was. Jerusalem was a clear front-runner for Cookbook of the Year; but Marco Canora, who judged this round (and, incidentally, is one of the chefs featured in my book!), found Jerusalem wanting. Funny enough, he singled out a dish I had made a few days earlier to great fanfare and called it “not particularly exciting.” Again, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

And this dish (at least to this man) is an absolute treasure. The process couldn’t be easier. You heat your oven to 475, toss butternut squash wedges (skin-on) and red onion with olive oil, salt and pepper on a sheet tray and roast until the vegetables are cooked through and starting to brown.

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While that’s happening, you make a sauce by stirring together tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water and salt. You also toast pine nuts in olive oil until they’re fragrant and golden.

It all comes together at the end. You lay the butternut squash and the onions on a serving dish, drizzle on the tahini sauce, sprinkle on the pine nuts and, at the very end, dash everything with za’atar (that wonderful spice blend that makes everything taste better) and chopped parsley. Here’s another picture, not so Instagrammy:

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It’s a stunning assemblage–especially for a vegetarian dinner party–and there are so many flavors going on it grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let go. Unless you’re Marco Canora, in which case it doesn’t. Marco’s got one of the best palate’s around, Hearth is one of the best restaurants in New York City, so clearly the man knows what he’s talking down. I suppose it comes down to personal taste. Does this look good to you? Can you imagine what this will taste like in your head? Do you enjoy that taste? Then this dish is for you. Otherwise, you may want to cook something out of the book Marco picked as the winner of that round: Asian Tofu by Andrea Nguyen.

Recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

Summary: From Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful cookbook, Jerusalem.

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash (2 1/4 lb / 1.1 kg in total), cut into 3/4 by 2 1/2-inch / 2 by 6 cm wedges
  • 2 red onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch / 3 cm wedges
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons / 50 mL olive oil
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons, light tahini paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons / 30 g pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 F.
  2. Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt (I used more), and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. To make the sauce, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.
  4. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts along with the 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.
  5. To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

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