Monday, March 9, 2015

Warm Tahini Squash & Chickpea Salad

As the sister of a lifelong vegetarian, I am constantly surprised (and often appalled) at the lack of viable meal options for vegetarians when dining out.  Even in New York City, where cooking vegetables creatively is considered ubiquitously trendy, restaurant competition is cutthroat, and food industry transparency is at an all time high, do I still—more often than not—see a plate of vegetables, or a pasta dish with sauce and vegetables, as the only option for plant-based eaters. No, it's not a lack of vegetables that's problematic—fresh, local produce is definitely abundant and in demand— but rather a lack of protein served with them. Just like carnivorous menus focus primarily on a meat or fish and consider vegetarian sides as appurtenances, so too a formula should vegetarian main dishes follow: protein first (beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa); vegetables second.

While I am not a vegetarian, I often choose to eat meatless: mostly because I really like vegetables and vegetarian proteins, but also because they are cheap and convenient.  I've often heard the argument that people dislike eating vegetarian because it doesn't quite fill them up (see paragraph above—a plate of vegetables isn't going to fill me up either!) and they end up feeling dissatisfied.  Well, I have a dish that is going to change that mindset for good: enter Warm Tahini Squash & Chickpea Salad. 

Where to even start? There are so many great things going on this dish. Nutrient-filled (whilst stomach-filling) seasonal winter squash, protein & fiber-packed chickpeas, and heart-healthy fat tahini (rich in protein, iron, zinc, and Vitamin B; essential nutrients to a vegetarian diet) come together to deliver a dish that feels so substantive and hearty you're bound to feel like you're overindulging.  "This is a salad that eats more like a gratin, without the cheese hangover!" one eater observed. Overindulging, I promise you're not—it's as healthful as can be.

That the salad is served warm may seem trifling, but the heat, enveloping and luxurious, is actually one of the highlights of the dish. I generally refrain from eating salads for dinner because I prefer a hot nighttime meal, so this recipe is a welcomed exception to that rule.  Between the burly roasted squash, thick tahini-lemon dressing, and chewy chickpeas, the dish's consistencies are so robust and beefy that it's hard to remember you're eating not only a vegetarian meal, but a vegan one at that.  Feeding a crowd? (Yup, this dish is dinner-party worthy!) Spoon the salad over a bed of arugula or serve with a side green salad, alongside warm toasted pita bread.

Warm Tahini Squash & Chickpea Salad (from Casa Moro via Food52)
Serves 4

·      2 pounds pumpkin, butternut, or other winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
·      1 garlic clove, crushed
·      ½ teaspoon ground allspice
·      2 tablespoons olive oil
·      Sea salt and black pepper
·      14 ounces canned or home-cooked chickpeas, drained
·      ½ small red onion, finely chopped (soaked in cold water for 15 minutes if you want to soften the bite)
·      4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro
·      1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a pinch of salt
·      3 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
·      3 tablespoons tahini paste
·      2 tablespoons water, to taste
·      2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.     Heat the oven to 425°F.
2.     Toss the squash with the garlic, allspice, olive oil, and some salt and pepper.
3.     Place on a tray, optionally lined with parchment, in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove and allow to cool slightly.
4.     While the squash is cooking, make the tahini sauce. Mix the crushed garlic with lemon juice and add the tahini. Now thin with the water and olive oil, and check for seasoning. You should taste a balance between the nutty tahini and lemon.

5.     To assemble the salad, place the squash, chickpeas, red onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Pour on the tahini sauce and remaining oil and toss carefully. Season with salt and pepper.

1 comment:

  1. This looks amazing! I can't wait to try it- I'm always on the hunt for protein-rich vegetarian meals. PS thanks for the shoutout :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.