One of my roommates recently picked up the Jerusalem cookbook. It’s always been one of my favorites to peruse, along with Ottolenghi’s other book, Plenty. I’ve never owned either of the books but have many friends who do, and from their pages, I have loved pretty much every recipe I’ve had the pleasure of helping to recreate.
Mediterranean cuisine may just be my favorite. And Jerusalem is packed with quality ingredients that bring this style of eating to life.
The first Ottolenghi recipe I ever made was essentially the non-pureed form of the one typed out below. That initial dish, a baked butternut and roasted red onion side, is one I make often. It introduced me to the heavenly combination of creamy tahini and nutty squash, which I knew wouldn’t let me down in this recipe.
Here, that duo is topped with an intriguing addition – date syrup, or as an alternate, molasses. The cookbook explains that date syrup is an intense, natural popular sweetener in the Middle East, and is great for salad dressings, to sweeten stews, or to drizzle over morning porridge. While I am curious to seek that out, the recipe says that the date syrup can be also be swapped for molasses. I decided to go with the latter, one, out of convenience, but also two, because I love molasses yet feel it’s a rather underutilized ingredient in my kitchen. It, too, felt like a surprise ingredient for the dish, and I thought it worked quite well.
Creamy and intense, this essentially turns tahini into something that I would eat by the spoonful. However, it’s rich, and is even better when smeared across a crusty bread. Next time, I might add cayenne for some heat, and possibly even a bit of lime or balsamic to cut it a little bit further. Overall though, this was a hit, and would certainly act as a conversation starter if serving to guests. It has this whole sweet-meets-savory dynamic that begs for questions, and also double dipping. Definitely adding this one to the repeat list. Again, another one from Jerusalem that doesn’t disappoint.
Recipe as seen in Ottolenghi and Tamimi's Jerusalem cookbook.
- 1 lg. butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 5 Tbsp. light tahini paste
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp. black and white sesame seeds (or just white)
- 1 1/2 tsp. date syrup or molasses (I used molasses)
- 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, optional
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Spread 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, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and roast in the oven for 70 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Transfer squash to a food processor, along with the tahini, yogurt, and garlic. Roughly pulse so that everything is combined into a coarse paste, without the spread becoming smooth. Stir in cilantro.
- Spread the butternut onto a plate. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and drizzle the date syrup/molasses on top. Serve with bread.