Some days more than others, cooking is a dance.
“I’ll be there in a minute, honey!” I crank the oven, scrub a butternut squash, lean in toward the counter, hack the peel away. (Some people eat it, do you?) Losing patience, my big girl comes over to talk subtraction, negative numbers, first grade math, the number line. The squash falls away from my knife in isosceles wedges. I show one to the girls.
“Do you want your squash in big pieces like this or little squares like squash candy?” You can guess the answer. I dice the last third of the squash, sling the pan into the oven, sweep the peels and seeds into the freezer for making broth, correct math homework, give in to the baby’s demand for a cracker.
Back to the recipe. I scoop tahini and squeeze lemon, press garlic, whisk, text with an old friend about soup, recite the memorized words from a favorite children’s book that we can’t find today. And then, in a moment of calm, I give my full attention to the stove, stirring, for the three minutes it takes to toast pine nuts. Success. They don’t burn.
Sweet roasted squash and red onions, a generous drizzle of tahini dressing, those salty toasted pine nuts, a shower of za’atar. I taste a piece of squash, then stop doing everything else. J wanders in at that moment and I hand him the plate and two forks. We sit down in the middle of the chaos and eat every bite. The recipe below is scaled to reflect the fact that I only used 2/3 of a medium-sized butternut squash. To serve more than two people, I highly recommend using a large squash and doubling the quantities of everything else, which will get you fairly close to the proportions of the original recipe.
Roasted Squash Salad with Tahini and Za’atar (adapted from Jerusalem, the newest cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi): Peel and seed a small butternut squash and slice it into wedges about 2″ long and 3/4″ wide at the base. Peel a red onion and slice it into wedges about 1″ wide at the base (leave the core intact at the root end to help the wedges hang together). Toss squash and onion with plenty of olive oil and salt, spread on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast at 475 until browned and tender, 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp. tahini, 2 tsp. lemon juice, half a small crushed clove of garlic, a good pinch of salt, and 1-2 Tbsp. water (enough to form a drizzle-able sauce). Set aside.
Finally, toast 3 Tbsp. pine nuts in a teaspoon of olive oil with a good pinch of salt over medium-low heat. Pay attention to them the whole time (2-4 minutes). Stir them often. Move them to a bowl when they are golden brown, along with the oil, to stop the cooking.
To serve, spread the roasted vegetables on a plate. Drizzle with the tahini sauce, then scatter the pine nuts and oil on top. Finish with 1 1/2 tsp. za’atar.