Roasted Sweet Potato and Zucchini Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Sometimes my schedule can get a little erratic. I have a very small handful of recipes that I turn to again and again when I know I will have to make a big batch of food that will function as lunch and/or dinner all week long. This is one of those.

I first discovered this recipe on the Food52 website and it has been making regular appearances in my kitchen ever since. Its exactly the kind of salad that I love to make. It tastes fantastic as soon as you put it together but it also stores and travels well. It can be eaten cold or reheated. It pairs well with chicken or fish, but I usually just eat it alone because once I start eating it I don’t want anything else.

Over time, I have made some small tweaks to the original recipe. First, it called for one zucchini but this was not nearly enough in my opinion. Two large sweet potatoes and one zucchini results in a ratio of almost 4 to 1 in the final mix, and while the sweet potatoes are definitely the main player in this salad, that seemed excessive to me. The recipe also called for chopped scallions to be added at the end. They were a nice touch but I swapped them out for some red onion that gets roasted with the potato and then chopped. I also made some changes to the dressing, increasing the amount of olive oil to smooth out the tahini flavor and using crushed garlic instead of sauteed cloves. Probably the biggest change that I made flavor-wise was to add some smoked paprika to the chickpeas. Its a strong addition and too much of it can easily overwhelm a dish, but here it melds nicely with the strong lemon notes.

Whenever I make this, I worry that I’m going to sit down and eat the whole bowl and have no leftovers. But that only happened one time. And I regret nothing.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Zucchini Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
(Adapted from Food52)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 14 oz. can of chickpeas, drained
1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika*
3 sprigs parsley, leaves removed and finely chopped
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Olive oil

Lemon Tahini Dressing
1/2 teaspoon crushed or minced garlic**
Juice and zest of one lemon***
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Coat the diced sweet potatoes with about a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Lay them in a single layer on the baking sheet with the quartered onion. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, stirring once.

While the sweet potato and onion are roasting, make the lemon tahini dressing and set aside.

Put the chickpeas in a skillet and add the paprika. Swirl them around to coat them with the spice. Add a dash of olive oil and heat on medium-high. When the chickpeas start to sizzle a bit, give them a shake to stir them around. Let them heat for about five minutes and then set aside.

When the sweet potatoes are nearly finished, take the onion from the baking sheet and set aside to cool. Add the zucchini to the baking sheet and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

While the vegetables roast, finely chop the parsley and set aside. Take the roasted onion and chop it finely. (Taste it to assess the strength of the flavor. If it is a very strong flavor, you will only need half of it. You can reserve the rest for another use.)

After 10 minutes, turn on the broiler and let the vegetables cook under it for 5 minutes to get some color. (If your oven runs a little hot and the vegetables already have plenty of color, you can skip this step.)

Add the roasted vegetables to the sauteed chickpeas. Mix in the chopped onion and parsley. Add the dressing and toss to coat.

Eat warm.

***************

* There are generally two kinds of paprika – sweet and hot. Smoked paprika is a specific kind of hot paprika, and if you do not have any in your kitchen, I strongly urge you to get some. A little goes a long way and it is a great addition to so many different dishes.

** In the original recipe, whole garlic cloves were sauteed with the chickpeas and then minced and used in the dressing. In my estimation, this is only worthwhile if you have really fresh garlic, so unless the farmer’s markets are around and I can easily procure some, I take the shortcut and use a jar of crushed garlic.

*** I wondered when I first made this if I really needed a whole lemon and if the zest was really so important. Yes and yes. The lemon flavor is so critical to achieving the balance of flavors. Don’t shortcut this step. In my opinion, it makes the dish.

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