Thursday, March 10, 2016

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onions



Although Italian food is my food of choice, and my cookbook shelves are lined predominantly with books from authors like Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich and Domenica Marchetti, I am also a big fan of other types of cuisine - including Middle Eastern.
Cookbooks from Yotam Ottenlenghi and Sami Tamimi also feature predominantly on my shelves for their flavor combinations that are so distant, yet so wonderful, from what I grew up eating.
Someone brought this dish to a dinner party I attended a few months ago, and I found myself going back for seconds (I would have gone back for thirds, but didn't want to appear greedy!)
When I asked for the recipe, I was told it was from Ottolenghi's book, Jerusalem, one of my favorite cookbooks, and one that was sitting on my bookshelf all along.
I've since made it several times, with a slight variation. Instead of using the pine nuts called for in the original recipe, I used hazelnuts - a less expensive alternative to the costly pine nuts from the Mediterranean (for those of us who won't buy Chinese pine nuts for various reasons - see here). Gustiamo.com sells wonderful pine nuts from Tuscany, but fair warning - they don't come cheap.

The sweetness of the onions and squash is hard to resist after they've emerged from the oven, but wait until you drizzle the sauce, the nuts and herbs all over it to get the full effect. Zatar, a middle Eastern herb blend, features predominately at the end. I can find it locally at a shop in my town called Savory Spice, or at Williams Sonoma, but they'll also sell by mail order.
The first time I made this dish, the tahini in the sauce was overwhelming to my palate, so I toned it down by adding some yogurt. In fact, I made it subsequently using only Greek yogurt and lemon juice, giving the sauce a nice tang.
It may well become your go-to vegetable dish for holidays or dinner parties.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onions
from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges 
2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges 
50ml olive oil
Maldon sea salt and black pepper (don't worry if you don't have Maldon sea salt - use kosher salt instead)

3½ tbsp tahini paste (or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt)
1½ tbsp lemon juice 
3 tbsp water 
1 small garlic clove, crushed 
30g pine nuts (I used about 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped)
1 tbsp za'atar
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley

Heat the oven to to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. 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. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and 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. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water, garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini as necessary. (I prefer a smaller amount of tahini, or sometimes eliminate it, adding about 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt to the mix)

Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. 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.

To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter and drizzle over the sauce. Scatter the pine nuts and oil on top, followed by the za'atar and parsley.

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    10 comments:

    Frank Fariello said...

    I bought Ottolenghi's book not long ago. It's one of those few cookbooks that can actually make me hungry just reading it... This beautiful plate of roasted vegetables is a good example of why!

    Chiara Giglio said...

    devo comperare il libro di Ottolenghi, ne sento parlare tanto e mi incuriosisce, bel piatto , un vero comfort food, buon we !

    Claudia said...

    Thanks for reminding me to go to my cookbook shelf. I haven't used Jerusalem for a long time. This is indeed mouth-watering and such a gorgeous use of vegetables.

    Marisa Franca @ Allourway said...

    I've never heard of Ottolenghi but it is now on my wish list!! I'm like you -- I grew up on Italian cuisine, I LOVE Italian cuisine, but I also enjoy lots of other tastes and I want to share -- like you -- when I find something I really like. Thank you for sharing -- I can't wait to try this recipe and discover some of Ottolenghi's other recipes. :-)

    AdriBarr said...

    Ottolenghi is a genius. His food is so tempting, and everything I have made from his books has been great. This one looks like no exception. Now I guess I will have to get Jerusalem also! Now if only Ottolenghi would open a take away here in Los Angeles, the world would be a perfect place...

    Rosa said...

    Mouthwatering! Totally my kind of food.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Janie said...

    I have this book and his others too. I now have to go and bring them out and start cooking. I love the flavort profiles.

    Proud Italian Cook said...

    Nobody does vegetables like him, his books are visually stunning, but I'm like you with tahini, I'm not such a fan, but using the yogurt with lemon sounds right up my alley!

    Paola said...

    I have all of his books - his interpretations of vegetables in particular are spectacular. Did you know that his paternal grandmother was of Italian Jewish origins? Thank you for your wonderful rendition of this marvelous dish.

    Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

    I like Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes very much! This is a wonderful recipe of his. When I lived in Brooklyn there were many Middle Eastern groceries and shops nearby where I could pick up fresh lentils and chickpeas and tahini, and exotic spices like zatar, so I often made vegetarian dishes like this. There is a Savory Spice shop in my area so I'm happy to hear they also have zatar for sale!