Thursday, March 17, 2016

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa with Lemon-Tahini Dressing (vegan)

I have many reasons for enjoying our new vegan lifestyle.  Two of my favorite reasons are that many of the meals are super easy and quick to make. My second reason is the flavors found in many of the recipes.  One ingredient that frequently comes up is tahini.  And, as I was told one day by a friend of mine who had spent a lot of time in Israel, something as good as falafel can be ruined if the tahini isn't good.  In other words, falafel is only as good as the quality of the tahini drizzled over it.  Wise words to live by, my friends. Wise words.


Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa with Lemon-Tahini Dressing (vegan)

If you aren't familiar with tahini, tahini is toasted and ground sesames made into a paste.  It isn't difficult to find in any grocery store these days.  It's not always in the same place: sometimes with the nut butters, sometimes in the kosher section, and sometimes in the health section.  If you can't find it, ask someone. They are bound to have some version.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa with Lemon-Tahini Dressing (Vegan)

Although we frequently eat a lot of foods from the Middle East (the chef always gets to choose her favorites), tahini isn't something I frequently cooked with before. I love to eat it when I'm out in restaurants, whether it be in dressings, hummus, or even desserts, but I had a hard time getting the beautiful, creamy flavors I'd get in restaurants.  Mayhaps it had more to do with the tahini I was using. Hmmmm....

A few months back, Gary and I got the opportunity to preview Michael Solomonov's cookbook Zahav with a full-course dinner filled with various appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks prepared by Solomonov personally.  Of course, the food was fantastic but the company was as well.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa with Lemon-Tahini Dressing (vegan)

Sitting next to us was a couple who seemed to know Solomonov well.  We were having a lively conversation about Israel and the Middle East, a topic that can never be dull, when the man sitting next to me tells me about his daughters' tahini business.  He tells us that their tahini is so good that Solomonov will only cook with it in his recipes.  He gave me their business card and I promised I would look it up and possibly write about it in my blog in the near future.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa with Lemon-Tahini Dressing (Vegan)

Well, I got home and read all about Soom Foods in Zahav.  The story of these three women who started their own tahini business is amazing and the love affair Solomonov has with their creamy tahini comes through clearly in the two-page spread he has in his own cookbook.  So, I read about the business.  I kept coming across the business card.  And, yet, I kept putting off ordering the stuff.  Finally, when we started making more vegan meals I began to see "tahini" come up quite a bit in the recipes.  I decided it was time to order a few jars of this tahini and see how good the stuff actually is.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa with Lemon-Tahini Dressing (Vegan)

The result: some of the best darn tahini I have ever tasted.  I do not kid.  It is creamy.  It is nutty.  It is smooth.  It is heaven.  I started looking into and saving more and more recipes that use tahini just so that I could use more myself.  I've made hummus and the lemon-tahini dressing you see in this recipe.    I even stirred some in with ramen, miso, and vegetables last night to give the meal a sesame flavor.  And, if I'm honest with you, I believe the bad tahini recipes I've had in the past had more to do with the quality of the tahini than the recipe itself.  Remember your lesson for today: a recipe is only as good as the quality of the tahini you put in it.  Don't forget.


If you're interested in Soom Foods tahini, click on the link to order your own jars.  You can order on Amazon in packs of 2 or 4.  We started off with two and went through them quickly.  My second order was 4 jars.  They also sell chocolate tahini. My mouth drools over the thought of it and how good it tastes.  Sidenote here:   I loved the chocolate tahini so much that I was determined this week to make a brownie with it. Seriously, it deserves to be in a brownie.  This is my mission.  My result? Fail. Twice.  I'm going to keep tweaking my recipe but I want to keep in the tahini and make it vegan.  I know the right combination of ingredients is coming soon.  It's there.  It's there.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa with Lemon-Tahini Dressing (Vegan)

This recipe featuring butternut squash, chickpeas, and quinoa is brought together simply by the lemon-tahini dressing.  If you buy pre-cut butternut squash, you can have this entire meal on the table in 30 minutes.  It's light and refreshing and only needs a little of the dressing to enjoy the lemony goodness of the dish.  Madison loved the dressing so much that she was trying to find vegetables in the fridge after we ate just to have a reason to dip more food in this dressing.

Note:  The recipe for Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa calls for a spice mixture named Zahtar.  Zahtar is a common blend of spices that frequently flavors Middle Eastern dishes.  It is made up of ground sumac, spices, sesame seed, salt, and a little oil.  It is not required to use Zahtar in this dish, but if you can get your hands on it why not? I've started adding it to a lot of our favorite middle eastern dishes because I love it just that much.

Links for this recipe:



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Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa

Recipe by Food Therapy (Christina Edmonds)

A light and easy vegan meal, packed with protein, vegetables, and a lemon-tahini dressing.

Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 pound, cubed butternut squash
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 15 ounce can, drained chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon Zahtar
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons water
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the butternut squash, 1 Tablespoon olive oil, chili powder, and cumin. Stir until the squash is evenly coated. Spray a jellyroll pan with cooking spray and pour the squash mixture onto the pan. Spread the squash out so that it cooks evenly. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until squash begins to brown, stirring halfway through.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, heat one Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add quinoa and stir for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and cook according to package directions. When the quinoa is ready, stir in lemon peel from one lemon. Set aside.
  3. Place chickpeas in a medium saucepan with 1 teaspoon of zahtar. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until heated through.
  4. For Tahini Dressing: In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup tahini paste, minced garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Slowly drizzle in 1 T. of olive oil, whisking the whole time. Slowly add 1 Tablespoon of water at a time until the dressing is the consistency you like. You can even add more than the 3 Tablespoons, but that seemed to be all that I needed.
  5. Spoon a helpful amount of quinoa into individual bowls. Top with roasted butternut squash and chickpeas. Drizzle dressing over top, and remember that a little goes a long way. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley over top.
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