Thursday, February 6, 2014

warm pumpkin and chickpea salad with tahini

I still haven't quite figured out my feelings with regards to tahini.

It's one of those things I want to like but find myself struggling with when I try it - the flavor can be oddly pasty and bitter. Anyway, it's an ingredient that comes up fairly often in vegetarian recipes of a certain ilk and though I've avoided it ever since making a highly disappointing tahini salad dressing a few years back, I saw a recipe for warm squash and chickpea salad with tahini dressing recently that got me interested in checking it out again.

The salad was pretty basic - roasted squash (I used pumpkin) with some spices (I used za'atar) tossed with chickpeas, chopped red onion, some fresh herbs (I used parsley), and a dressing made of tahini paste, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil and water. After whisking the dressing together and tasting it, I was disappointed. It wasn't horrible but I didn't love it. It was, as I had feared it would be, somewhat bitter. But I decided to soldier on and made the salad, stirring the tahini dressing in with the vegetables and then adding a poached egg and a sprinkling of smoked paprika on top for good measure. 

And it was great. The bitterness of the tahini was balanced out by some of the natural starchiness of the pumpkin and the richness of the egg. The paprika didn't hurt either. I like bitter foods but find that I usually want to pair them with rich foods. The point isn't to mask the bitterness but rather to balance it out in some way. So for me, the addition of the poached egg brought the salad together and made for a lovely rainy-day lunch. 

*Original recipe found here (hardly a surprise, I know) but I made a number of changes/substitutions, as noted above. 

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