We returned from Pennsylvania last week with our hearts full of great memories, our bags full of sweaty, muddy clothes from all that hiking, and an armful of golden-yellow squash.
Driving one afternoon from the tiny little cottage we had rented in the mountains to the village that consisted of about 20 homes, a postage-stamp-sized post office, a county high school, and a dentist, we ran across a sight not unusual in rural America -- an unmanned vegetable stand outside a house on a hill, with squashes yellow and green. To the table were taped directions, including one offering three of the squashes for a dollar, and another directing a buyer to deposit the dollar in a little metal box across the driveway.
Always greedy for vegetables, Desi and I stopped to first admire and then pick some of the enormous squashes, especially the yellow ones with their smooth, golden skins and green bottoms. Back at the cottage, I sliced up one of the giants for the grill (grilled squash seasoned with nothing more than some salt and pepper is absolutely delicious -- try it if you haven't). We still had two sitting on the counter, so when Desi suggested we buy more the next day, as we drove past the stand again, I thought he was nuts. It's only a dollar, he reasoned, and we drove back to the cottage with three more yellow squashes.
To make a long story short, we still had five when we returned home from our vacation, and the first thing I did -- once I was reunited in my own kitchen with one of my favorite seasonings, za'atar -- was to roast up some squash to cook up a dip seasoned with this delicious middle eastern herb and spice mix.
This is a really simple dip, but it tastes so rich and deep that you will be blown away. It has just a handful of ingredients commonly used in middle eastern cuisine, including tahini, roasted garlic, and lemon juice. The za'atar, a complex blend of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and other herbs and spices, adds a unique and hefty flavor punch, but if you want to try something different, you could try a dash of garam masala instead, or even Italian seasoning, or just some paprika.
Be warned that roasted squash is so delicious, you might end up eating it all before you actually make the dip. And I wouldn't blame you. But if you do manage to save enough for the dip, you'll be more than rewarded.
- 1 very large yellow squash or two medium squashes. Zucchini would also work for this.
- 1 head of garlic. Slice off the top to expose the tops of the cloves.
- 2 tbsp tahini
- ½ tsp za'atar plus more for sprinkling on top
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Cut the squash into 2-inch pieces. In a bowl, mix the squash with the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Do not peel the squash-- the roasted skins offer a lot of flavor, not to mention nutrition.
- Spread the squash evenly on a baking sheet and roast in a preheated 450-degree oven for 40 minutes until very tender. Spray the garlic bulb with some oil, wrap in aluminum foil, and place in a corner of the baking sheet before placing it in the oven.
- Let the squash and garlic cool. Place the squash in a food processor. Squeeze out the roasted garlic into the food processor.
- Add the tahini, za'atar, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and salt to taste and blitz until smooth.
- Serve with pita or other chips, or crudites.