Meatless Mondays: Roasted Turk’s Turban Squash and Onions With Tahini Dressing

Faced with an unfamiliar vegetable, cookbooks can be more helpful than the Internet.

How to Cook Turk's Turban Squash
Ian Knauer is a regular contributor to TakePart. He worked for ‘Gourmet’ and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook ‘The Farm.’

Most of us who cook at home have our favorites. Our go-to recipes, techniques, and ingredients that we use time and again because we know they work. Because we want to get dinner on the table, and we’ve had success many times with something like butternut squash or cauliflower or kale.

I cook like that too. If I go to the market and have my choice of what to buy, it will usually be something I’ve made before and am familiar with. This is one of my favorite aspects of being a member of a local CSA—I have to break out of my habits.

With a CSA, not only do I get fresh produce to cook with and a chance to support a local farm, but I don’t have a choice of the ingredients I receive. If it's time to harvest kohlrabi, the kohlrabi is in the box. I am forced to cook outside my comfort level. This week, I received a squash I’d never seen before called a Turk’s Turban. It was a real beaut. Its skin was multicolored autumn hues with an intriguing nob on top.

But I wasn’t sure how to cook this thing. So I called on the Internet—often a mistake. Wikipedia calls the squash’s flavor “coarse, watery and insipid.” It sounded like I was off to a bad start. Determined to prove the collective wisdom of Wikipedia wrong for the millionth time, I went to a more reliable collection of knowledge, my library of cookbooks. I found the answer in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, in which he combines roasted squash and onions with a sharp tahini dressing.

I attacked the squash, cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. I didn’t know if the skin was edible, so I rubbed the two halves with oil, salt, and pepper and stuck them in the oven with some onions. It turns out the skin is not edible, but the flesh is anything but coarse, watery, and insipid. It is nutty and sweet, better even than my go-to butternut. I am happy to report that old-school publishing scored another point against the Internet.

Roasted Turk’s Turban Squash and Onions With Tahini Dressing

Adapted from Jerusalem

Serves 4

1 (3- to 4-lb.) Turk’s Turban squash (or other winter squash)

2 large red onions

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup tahini

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon dill fronds

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Rub the cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and sprinkle with a large pinch each of salt and pepper. Cut the onions in wedges, and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a large pinch each of salt and pepper. Place the squash, cut sides down, on a baking sheet, and scatter the onions around the squash. Roast the vegetables until the onions are browned and the squash is tender, about 40 minutes.

Scoop the squash flesh onto a serving platter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the onions over the squash.

Stir together the tahini, lemon, maple syrup, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; then drizzle the dressing over the squash. Scatter the herbs over the dish and serve.

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