Monday, September 16, 2013

Seasonal Squash Recipe

Today I promised I would post about my attempt at creating the recipe Sose sent to me, which is a roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar recipe.

I bought all the ingredients from a shuga (market), read the instructions and went for it. I was especially happy to see the skin of the butternut squash was meant to be left on (fibre, represent!). I grabbed the largest knife I could find and stabbed it a couple of times before putting on some music and beginning chop-fest '13, not paying attention to the sizes recommended of course:

I noticed my room mate's cat, Moogeeg (mouse), was lurking about and was up to no good. I gave him a dirty look and he licked his lips. He decided he would interfere and there was nothing I could do about it:
As I began to chop the onions, he came closer and closer and I heard a thump. I looked to my right and Moogeeg had made it to the chair, closer to the table where he could see exactly what I was up to, and so he could become the official unwanted taste-tester. He apparently thinks if he hides his head, I won't be able to see him:
I yelled at him at him in Armenian (lovingly) and he surprisingly scurried away. I become impressed with myself and gained the confidence to move on to the marinating portion of the recipe. I grabbed a pot, tossed in the butternut squash, the onions, some salt, black pepper and oil and stirred them all together. I then realized that this recipe has no hot pepper in it so I put an end to that nonsense, a decision my room mates will not be too happy about:
Once all cubes and wedges were nicely marinated, it was time to transfer them on to the oven tray for some baking. Of course since my room mates cannot make the oven work without worrying they will burn off their hands, I opt for the huge toaster oven that they luckily have:
It is meant to cook for around 40 minutes, but I left it in longer since it is baking in a toaster oven. The 40 minutes gives me time to wash the dishes, clean up, and begin to make the dressing. I began by chopping the garlic since I know I will let it sit for at least five minutes before adding it to the rest of the mix. Among garlic's many health benefits, it is an important anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. But once you chop or crush it, an enzymatic process begins converting the component within garlic called alliin to allicin. Alicin is actually what most of garlic's health benefits are attributed to. However, adding it to foods with a low pH (like the lemon juice in the tahini dressing) or to heat actually disrupts this process, stunting the conversion. So when a recipe calls for garlic, aim to chop it first to allow this important process to be completed!
You can almost see it happening!
Six minutes later I mixed it with the lemon juice, tahini, water and began rebelling by adding the za'atar to the mixture already (and some more hot pepper too, of course). The tahini is a welcome calcium-boost due to the sesame seeds. Tahini is a good option because since sesame seeds are so small, and because people tend to not chew their food as thoroughly as they should, the seeds are often left completely intact, so the calcium is not absorbed.
Nayiry's za'atar, straight from Lebanon!
Steering completely off recipe, I added all the parsley
By this time I checked on one of the butternut squash cubes in the toaster oven, and since it was soft and delicious, I decided it was ready. I let it cool a bit before adding it to the tahini dressing. It had a wonderful colour:
Once it cooled, I added it all to the pot for the final mix. I added some more hot pepper and I only somewhat regretted that afterwards:

The dish smells great and is ready to eat! I put some into a plate and decorate it with some parsley and voila:
The final verdict: delicious, quite easy (even the stabbing of the butternut squash), and quite nutritious. Learn from my mistakes and only go for two doses of hot pepper. Some of the butternut squash cubes could have been cooked a little longer, but I like a nice crunch so I didn't mind! Definitely recommend trying this one out!

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