When last I wrote, of drama and mashed potatoes, we were about to put an offer on a house among other momentous events. Well, dear readers, we now have a new home. Or to be more precise, we are under contract, as they say in home-buying lingo. We are waiting for the inspection, shopping mortgages, and dreaming about painting Maddie’s new room something other than the bizarre acid green that it currently is. Our tentative moving date is the first or second week of June, which leaves us just about two months to wrap up our Southern California lives, pack up our teensy-tiny apartment, and haul everything cross-county. (Speaking of which, has anyone ever driven cross-county with an infant? Is it as bad of an idea as I think it is?)
So here on Superspark, you may see some unusual, pantry-emptying recipes in the weeks to come. For instance, what will come of those canned oysters that have been sitting on the shelf for years? (If it’s up to me, they’ll quickly find a home in the trash, but I’ll let Dylan reserve the right to eat them if he so chooses. Canned molluscs, not my thing.) And what of the huge jar of preserved lemons I made last year? (Also the trash, in all likelihood- they didn’t turn out so hot.) How about the approximately 25 lbs of whole grains that we’ve stashed away or the giant, half-used vat of black bean paste? Oh, the possibilities!
Tahini is another one of those ingredients that often goes unnoticed and untouched for a long time in our house. There’s a great spinach salad with tahini dressing recipe that I’ve written about and love, but aside from that, I don’t have any “go-to” recipes with tahini. So I was hoping that this might turn out to be a classic, something that I’d want to make again and again to use up the remainder of the tahini in the house.
Weirdly, I had bookmarked the recipe multiple times in various spots, never remembering I’d seen it before: once from Smitten Kitchen, once from A Veggie Venture, once from Everybody Loves Sandwiches, and finally from Orangette, where it seems to have originally entered the blogosphere. With such a pedigree, it seemed like a no-brainer, sort of like the uber-popular roasted shrimp with broccoli recipe that the whole blogging world seems to have embraced. But for all of the hype and hubbub, this recipe didn’t do that much for me. I mean, it was good enough- I like chick peas, I like butternut squash, and tahini is nice, but the build-up had been a bit much. I might make it another time, but I wouldn’t particularly miss it if it never crossed my lips again. For me this was an instance in which the sum of the ingredients was no greater than their parts, unfortunately.
If you were to recreate anything from this meal, incidentally, let it be the simple velveted chicken we had alongside the salad. Learn how to “velvet” here (read on until the bottom) and even those who eschew the lowly boring chicken breast will become converts.
Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing (serves 4)
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 this)
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
1. Preheat the 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 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool.
2. 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. You may need to add more water to thin it out.
3. 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.