I meant to post about this recipe yesterday, but somehow, I’m, er, running a tad behind schedule. How did I get so woefully tardy on my holiday preparations this year? Usually, I’m that student you always hated, the one who handed her essay in two days early. Or that friend who’s already seated, calmly sipping tea and reading The History of Love, when you arrive at the restaurant for lunch at the designated time. (Sorry, really. Seems I couldn’t help it. . .just anal that way).
But not this year; no sirree. I suppose I can attribute the shift in efficiency to a strange confluence of medical and dental appointments, late-in-the-term exams and massive marking duties, some broken plumbing and emergency repairs plus various and sundry other distractions scattered throughout the month. I could blame the influence of the HH (always a great fallback position) and his über laid-back approach to Christmas shopping the holidays shovelling snow everything, leaving chores or errands until the last minute, which seems to work just fine for him but is in fact disastrous for me. Or I could blame this infernal candida (even better fallback position), which has been acting up as if sparked by the holiday spirit itself.
Years ago, I vowed I would never leave holiday shopping to the last minute. This pledge came after one particular Christmas in Montreal during my graduate school years. I’d flown “home” from Toronto to be with my family, but as a don in residence, I wasn’t allowed to leave the campus until December 23rd. The CFO suggested we wait until I arrived so we could shop together–on December 24th. “We’ll just start really early, before the crowds develop,” was her reasoning. It must have been the jet-lag, but it seemed logical to me, and I agreed.*
Entering the first shopping mall, I was overcome with a mounting sense of dread as we shuffled along amid the throngs, shoulder to shoulder with a mass of strangers moving in unison from displays of scarves and mitts to shelves of sweaters and lingerie to stacks of boots and books to walls lined with dresses and coats to counters replete with mixers, radios, food processors, mixing bowls, wine glasses, can openers, oven mitts. . . . within minutes, I was a little light-headed and approaching dizzy.
After about half an hour of such torture, the CFO and I looked around at the mob of seemingly lifeless bodies perambulating like automatons, no expression (or worse, grim determination) on their faces, moving as if compelled by some unseen, insidious force. . . wait a minute–did that guy have both his arms outstretched before him, palms toward the ground? Was that a little drop of blood I saw in the corner of that grandma’s leering mouth? Was that woman at the Henckels counter lifting that blade a little too high over the saleswoman’s head? Suddenly, we both decided we had to get out of there. Now.
With only a few meagre bags at our feet, sipping cappuccino (as I still did in those days) at a nearby café, we felt enormous relief at having escaped relatively unscathed from what seemed like the scene of the latest horror movie: Christmas Night of the Living Dead, perhaps, or Invasion of the Booty Snatchers, or The Lost Buys. Or, even more to the point, simply The Shopping Mall (Mmwhahahahaaaaaa!).
Nope, never again.
Okay, so maybe December 22nd is, in reality, not much better than December 24th, but at least I got the job done yesterday (with minimal dizziness or bloodshed). The HH, on the other hand, still hasn’t even started his Christmas shopping. Mwhahhaahahaaaa!
This salad will provide a refuge from the holiday insanity (or, perhaps, some rejuvenation after the Big Day). I came across the recipe on Shannon’s blog while catching up on blog reading (another area I’m woefully behind). The original hails from Molly, and, like all of her recipes, it’s a winner. It’s quick (start to finish in less than 30 minutes), satisfying and nutritious all at once. The combination of butternut squash (for just a hint of sweetness) and chickpeas (for protein) with a smattering of red onion (for bite) and aromatic cilantro (for–well, for deliciousness) is addicting.
I had it for lunch yesterday, then again today. The creamy cloak of tahini drizzled over the warmed squash base makes for a delightful contrast in flavors and temperatures, reminiscent of the all-in-one dinner bowls I wrote about a while back. In fact, I think this would be more than sufficient for dinner if served with a healthy grain or hunk of hearty bread.
*Of course it wasn’t jet-lag; there’s no time difference between Toronto and Montreal. It was just wishful thinking.
Warm Butternut Salad with Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing
adapted from Orangette
Oddly, even though the original recipe is called “Warm Butternut Salad,” Molly’s instructions tell us to cool the squash and not re-heat it. I simply used the squash almost straight from the oven to keep the base warm, and to save time.
For the Salad:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ (2.5 cm) pieces
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) allspice (I’d go with 3/4 tsp or 3.5 ml next time)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
fine sea salt, to taste
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked chickpeas, or one 15 oz (425 g) can, drained and rinsed very well
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped
For the Tahini Dressing:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
3 Tbsp (45 ml) well-stirred tahini
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced
3-1/2 Tbsp (52.5 ml) fresh lemon juice (not bottled)
2-4 Tbsp (30-60 ml) water, as needed
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, 1 clove garlic, allspice, 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, and salt to taste. Use a large spoon or your hands to toss the squash until everything is evenly coated. Turn the mixture onto the baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is just tender (take care not to overbake at this stage). Remove from oven and cool about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil and tahini until smooth. Add remaining ingredients (start with just 2 Tbsp/30 ml water) and whisk until smooth; the sauce should be the texture of thick cream. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I had to add a bit more lemon juice).
To assemble: combine the baked squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl and toss gently (so as not to break up the squash). For individual servings, spoon onto plates and drizzle each individually with dressing. Or toss the entire salad and serve in a large bowl, family-style. Makes 4-6 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
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