Tuesday, May 4, 2010

the in-between season

You know what's nice on a spring night in Seattle, when the days are getting longer but the sky's still gray with rain? A good hearty salad, even better if it's one that's served warm. Something with bright flavors and fresh vegetables to match the spirit of the season, but cozy and comforting enough to match the actual weather.

This is an adaptation of a salad that made the rounds of the food blogs a few autumns back. To make it a little more spring-like, I added some sumac--a tart, sunny spice--and changed up the vegetables. The winter squash called for in the original recipe are gone from the farmers markets by now, but I found sweet potatoes at the Ballard market a couple weeks back, and that's what I used. But I think you could make this dish with just about any hearty vegetable that will go soft and sweet when roasted--carrots, rutabagas, maybe even cauliflower. Again, it could be almost a recipe template, easily adaptable.

Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing
Adapted from Casa Moro via Orangette

1 1/2 pound sweet potatoes, or a mixture of roastable vegetables
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp sumac
1 medium clove garlic

1/4 to 1/2 of a medium red onion
Juice of 1 lemon

3 Tbsp well-stirred tahini (that's what the original recipe requests, but I can vouch for the fact that half-assedly stirred tahini will work okay too)
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium clove garlic

1 15-ounce can chickpeas (or 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked chickpeas, if you're a better person than I am and cook your own beans)
A few handfuls of arugula
Chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Wash and peel the sweet potatoes (or other vegetables), and cut them into 1-inch cubes (or roughly equal-sized chunks). Place the olive oil, spices, and salt in a large baking dish. Peel the garlic and press it into the dish. Add the sweet potatoes and toss everything together with a spoon or with your hands. Put in the oven and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are soft. Remove from the oven and cool a bit.

While the vegetables are cooking, chop the onion very fine and place it in the bottom of a serving bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice over it and stir with a fork. (This step is optional, but good to do if you don't like your onion very strong.)

In a small bowl, stir together the tahini, water, and olive oil. Add salt to taste. Peel the garlic and press it into the bowl. Stir everything together to combine.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Wash the arugula and spin dry.

When the vegetables are out of the oven and cooled to somewhere between piping hot and room temperature, assemble the salad. Add the chickpeas and vegetables to the bowl with the onion and lemon juice, and toss gently to combine. Add tahini dressing to taste and toss again--or, let each person drizzle the dressing over their individual serving. If you're really together, sprinkle each plate with a little chopped parsley. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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