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Butternut Squash and Tahini Dip

written by Marsha Seidelman, M.D.

From Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

One of the most delicious parts of this book is the introduction that describes the growing relationship between the authors - two young men who were born the same year in Jerusalem, one in the Jewish west, the other in the Muslim east areas. They didn't know each other growing up, but eventually met and became close friends and business partners. Ottolenghi is an award-winning cookbook author (Plenty) and restaurant owner; Tamimi is a partner and head chef at Ottolenghi, an eponymous group of restaurants in London.  As authors, they explain how Jerusalem is a tapestry of cultures - so much so that you can't tell where any food originated, as similar dishes blend together and reflect many origins. They dare"... --to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will."

After trying a chicken with barberry recipe, I saw some enticing spreads - this one and one with burnt eggplant in particular.  So much so, that I promised a friend I'd bring a few dips to dinner this weekend, but that I'd be experimenting on her and her guests. So, I tried this dip first - what good fortune ... for ALL of us!  It takes some time to roast the butternut squash, but otherwise is simple as can be!

Tahini is a paste of sesame seeds that is often used in hummus or baba ghanouj.  Previous tins of tahini that I bought were very thick and pasty, making it difficult to work with and to taste anything but thick goo. Truth be told, the cans of tahini that I purchase for a particular recipe often stay in the back of my fridge, unused until they're finally discarded, because they're so difficulty to scoop out after refrigeration. Any of you who know me, know that I do NOT like discarding any food! For this recipe, my husband picked up a jar of tahini from TJs that was thinner and easier to work with and had a much more subtle taste than the others. 

1 large butternut squash (~ 2.5 pounds) peeled and cut up into chunks
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5 Tbsp light tahini paste (Trader Joe's Organic Tahini)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 small cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp mixed black and white sesame seeds (or just white , if you like)
1 1/2 tsp date syrup
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
1/2 tsp salt

1) Spread the squash out in a medium roasting pan. Pour over the olive oil and sprinkle on the cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix together well and cover the pain tightly with aluminum foil and roast in the oven for 60 minutes, stirring once during the cooking. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool.

2) Transfer the squash to a food processor along with the tahini, yogurt and garlic. Roughly pulse into a coarse paste, without the spread becoming smooth - or use a fork or potato masher.

3) Spread the butternut in a wavy pattern over a flat plate and sprinkle with the sesame seeds, drizzle over the syrup and finish with cilantro, if using.

I tried to use pomegranate syrup or molasses in place of the date syrup, but preferred the date syrup most - or even omitting it. The dip is an interesting change from usual hummus. I didn't read the instructions carefully and made it smooth - which was good - but I'll try it chunky next time.


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