Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar

I read this one in the Guardian some time ago and finally decided to try it.  It really is not complicated (provided you have all the exotic sounding ingredients, of course), looks good and provides an interesting gourmand experience. It is served in room temperature, so it may very well be prepared beforehand and ‘dressed’ at the last moment.

Butternut squash proves to be much more starchy than I expected – brings to mind the sweet potato rather than a distant relative, the pumpkin. Definitely not suitable as a side vegetable, but positively a dish to try at lunch or as a sound component of a vegetarian dinner.

I chose to roast the butternut squash separately from the onions, as the roasting time for both differs considerably. If you choose to place them together, you may need to remove the onions from the oven earlier – I did not want to bother, but you may not mind the heat..

Components below will be OK for 4 as a main course, or possibly 6 as an hors d’oeuvre..

  • 1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges
  • 2 red onions, cut into wedges
  • 50ml olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • 3½ tbsp tahini paste  (I will try with peanut butter when I run out of tahini)
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp za’atar
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
  1. Heat the oven to to 220C/425F.

This is the roasting together or separately:

  1. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well.
  2. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet
  3. Roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Prepare the dressings:

  1. Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water, garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt.
  2. Whisk to the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini as necessary. I found this to be surprisingly thick – added some water, and some juice.. left it at the thick honey stage. It is not a ready-to-pour consistency.
  3. Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on medium-low heat.
  4. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.

And serve:

  1. To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter and drizzle over the sauce. To fulfill the “drizzle” part I used a small plastic bag, made a small hole in a corner, loaded the nutty substance into the bag and squeezed the sauce in cake decorating style over the veggies. Worked well.
  2. Scatter the pine nuts and oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.
  3. Done!
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