Herb-Roasted Autumn Roots + Squash with Garlic Tahini Sauce

Like clockwork, as soon as the leaves in Central Park begin their transformation to various shades of gold, orange, amber, and red, my food leanings turn toward a similar color palette. October and November greenmarket trips typically culminate with me lugging home shopping bags laden with myriad varieties of squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, fresh turmeric and ginger, golden delicious apples, and more. And although it’s not golden in color, the humble and rather awkward-looking celeriac (celery root) is also one of my favorite root vegetables, especially the crisp, freshly dug roots that make their way to the market in early autumn. All of these sweet, earthy, and nutrient-dense starchy vegetables are terrific roasted, of course, and also steamed or blended into a soup (especially with fresh ginger, shallots, garlic and coconut milk – yum! but that’s a topic for another post ;).

Today’s simple herb-roasted mixed roots + squash has become one of my fall favorites. This dish makes for a lovely presentation and would be a welcome addition to the Thanksgiving table (or any autumnal gathering, for that matter).  It’s also a dish that happily welcomes all comers: gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free, it can be enjoyed by virtually all those who grace your holiday table.

To make this warming dish I cut sweet potato and celeriac into stout batons and toss with half-moons of delicata squash (acorn or butternut also fit right in), toss in a few skin-on cloves of garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme, and extra-virgin olive oil and roast until all is golden, tender and crispy. Then I squeeze the roasted garlic cloves, now soft, sweet and umami-rich, from their papery skins, and blend with tahini and red wine vinegar for the most delicious and creamy roasted garlic sauce you have ever tasted (I make a double batch because this stuff is so good on everything — quinoa bowls, salads, braised greens, and as a dipping sauce for roasted sweet potato fries). Before serving I like to add crispy pumpkin seeds or toasted walnuts and pomegranate arils (or dried cranberries) for an extra pop of flavor and textural contrast against the tender, creamy roots and squash.

Herb-Roasted Autumn Roots + Squash with Garlic Tahini Sauce
I do not peel delicata squash, because its skin is thin and becomes tender when cooked. I also like the extra color the skin adds to the dish, with its creamy yellow background and pretty orange and green stripes. If using a thicker skinned squash variety, such as butternut or acorn, I suggest removing the skin before cutting into the squash.

Serves 4 as a side dish
15 minutes to prep plus 30 minutes to cook

1 medium-large sweet potato, cut into batons (about 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch and 3 inches in length) (about 3 cups)
1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into batons (about 2 cups)
1 delicata squash, stem and base removed, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, and cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
3 large garlic cloves, NOT peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (sub in coconut oil or melted ghee, if you prefer)

1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame butter)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 to 4 tablespoons water (plus additional as needed)
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons pomegranate arils
1 teaspoon finely sliced chives
sea salt, as needed

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine prepped sweet potato, celery root, squash, and garlic in a large bowl. Add olive oil, herbs, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and toss to combine. Transfer vegetables to a parchment-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer (use 2 sheets if necessary; if crowded the vegetables will steam rather than crisp up). Roast until vegetables are tender, golden, and crisp around the edges and garlic is soft, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring and rotating pan halfway through.  Remove garlic cloves and set aside. Taste vegetables and season with additional salt, if needed.

3. When garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves from their skins and add to a blender with tahini, red wine vinegar, water, and a pinch of salt. Blend until creamy, adding more water, if needed, 1 teaspoon at a time until a pourable consistency is achieved. Season with salt to taste.

4. Transfer vegetables to a serving dish, drizzle with garlic-tahini sauce, and garnish with pumpkin and pomegranate seeds and chives. Serve warm or at room temp with remaining sauce on the side.

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