November 20, 2014

A Flawless Recipe for Autumn

There is no better season for cooks to play in their kitchens than Autumn.  When the weather starts cooling down and tarp covers are falling on barbecue grills like the last curtain call for an actress past her prime, it's time to head back inside!

Just as the leaves begin to turn on the neighborhood trees, the colors of farmers markets follow suit.  Summer's vibrantly green herbs and the bright red hues of tomatoes give way to the deeper, richer jewel tones of carrots, beets and eggplant.  Vine-growing fruits like butternut squash (yes, it's actually a fruit!) also make an appearance this time of year, having been planted in the previous months.

With that in mind, I've created a vegetarian recipe that combines roasted carrots and butternut squash, with the Eastern Mediterranean touches of Tahini and Zaatar.  The complex flavors from the roasting process pair beautifully with the citrus, nutty flavor of the tahini dressing.  Serve it as a starter, alongside your favorite protein or enjoy it as a vegetarian main course.

Easy to prepare and laden with healthful minerals, anti-oxidants and vitamins, this is now my must-have dish for Autumn! 

Roasted Carrots & Butternut Squash with Tahini & Zaatar
6 servings

1 lb. rainbow (or regular) carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
1 large butternut squash
1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, halved (optional)
2 medium red onions, peeled and sliced
2 Tbs. olive oil + 1 Tsp.
2 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. pepper
1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2.5 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cold water
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1/3 cup of good tahini 
2 Tbs. zaatar mix

Best enjoyed at room temperature, this dish keeps well refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Preheat your oven to 425F (220C).  Clean the outside of the squash with a washcloth under cold running water.  Dry with a towel then cut in half lengthwise.  Discard the stringy fibers and seeds and cut into 1.5-inch thick wedges.  Place in a large mixing bowl and add the carrots, onions and if you like them, the brussels sprouts, too!  Toss together with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast, squash skin side down for about 45 minutes or until completely soft.  Keep an eye on the onions as they may take less time to cook. When done, remove roasting pan from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the olive oil in a small pan and cook the pine nuts on medium-low heat until golden brown, stirring frequently.  Transfer to a small bowl with the oil and set aside to cool.  To make the tahini dressing, place the tahini, lemon juice and water in a small bowl and add a pinch of salt.  Mix well.

Arrange the roasted vegetables on a serving platter, drizzle the tahini dressing on top, followed by the olive oil pine nuts and the zaatar, and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Note: Change things up a little.  This makes a perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving meal!

I was featured in GQ UK's December issue!
I also appeared in the New York Times!