warm winter squash salad with chickpeas and tahini

January 25, 2014


This is originally from the Casa Moro Cookbook via Food52, one of my go-to blogs for the recipes and fabulous Provisions store. It’s adapted slightly, from a slight adaptation. Which makes me happy – thinking about all these recipes that travel and get shared and get switched up slightly with each new rendition. My daughter, Rebekah, was my co-chef on this one and decided to add Jimmy Nardello Smoked Paprika from the amazing Vicki’s Veggies. Which is so fitting given the travelling and sharing. Why? Because of Jimmy.

Rumour has it that Giuseppe Nardiello and his wife, Angela, nurtured a favourite variety of sweet frying pepper in southern Italy in the region of Basilicata. When they set sail from the port of Naples in 1887, Angela carried a handful of the pepper seeds with her. They settled in Naugatuck, Connecticut, where they raised the peppers, and eleven children. The fourth one was a son named Jimmy. Jimmy was the only one of the Nardello children to inherit Angela’s love of the garden. Jimmy passed away in 1983. But before he did, he donated some of the heirloom pepper seeds to Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) in Decorah, Iowa. SSE specializes in protecting heirloom seeds, with more than 11,000 varieties protected in two separate climate-controlled vaults. One hundred and twenty years after the Nardellos set sail, bringing a small piece of their homeland with them, the pepper that bears the family name is becoming a favourite among chefs and home gardeners nationwide, but it is still registered as “endangered” on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Tastes. The Ark is an effort to find, catalog, and protect the world’s endangered flavours from the onslaught of the standardization of agriculture and cuisine. Crazy, right? Totally. But beautiful and important and poignant and a great addition to this warm winter salad.

2 pounds pumpkin or other winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp jimmy nardello smoked paprika

2 tbsps olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

14 ounces canned or home-cooked chickpeas, drained

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

4 tbsps fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

3 1/2 tbsps lemon juice

3 tbsps tahini paste

2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsps water, to taste

Heat the oven to 425°F

Toss the squash with the garlic, allspice, smoked paprika, olive oil, and some salt and pepper.

Place on a tray, optionally lined with parchment, in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove and allow to cool slightly.

While the squash is cooking, make the tahini sauce. Mix the minced garlic with lemon juice and add the tahini. Now thin with the water and olive oil, and check for seasoning. You should taste a balance between the nutty tahini and lemon.

To assemble the salad, place the squash, chickpeas, red onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Pour on the tahini sauce and remaining oil and toss carefully. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. Eat. And say a prayer of thanks to Jimmy.

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