Weeknight Cooking

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad with Tahini

January 22, 2014

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The salad you want to eat right now (and the dressing you'll want to put on everything).

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

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Our local farmers' markets -- just when we need them most -- are starting to look a little grim. We're ready for bright and restorative; the market says, "How about a nice onion instead?" 

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

Don't be defeated, and definitely don't give up on your local market. There is an answer, and it's not the hothouse tomatoes and cucumbers, which feel like infiltrators from another world. (You're actually covered in a layer of snow, tomato -- you know that, right?)

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

"When everybody's trying to counterbalance all the butter they ate during the holidays, but they still want a lunch or dinner that's tasty and satisfying (and brightly colored)," Food52er Ameliorator wrote to me: "This is the salad to turn to."

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52  Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

It comes from Sam & Sam Clark of Moro restaurant in London, and puts to use ingredients you probably already have, or at least have been side-stepping at the market till now.

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52  Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

It starts by roasting butternut (or any) squash in cubes, like you always do, but throws in some nuance -- ground allspice and minced garlic (which won't burn like you'd think).

More: 11 Butternut Squash Recipes

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

Then, while they're still a little warm, you'll toss them with chickpeas -- best cooked from scratch, but a can will do. 

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

A vinaigrette might sink into the squash and slide off of the chickpeas. Here, you'll want a dressing that clings. 

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52 

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52 

That's where tahini comes in -- a vegan means of adding smoke, protein, cream, and substance (also an impressive carrier of garlic, lemon, and salt). This dressing is 4 ingredients and 5 minutes away, and you will want to put it on everything.

But your bowl at this point is still looking like a burnt sienna paint strip at Home Depot. You can still do better. How about a good fistful of green cilantro leaves, some purple onion bits?

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52 
(Maybe you want the grip of sweet raw red onion to shake up your mouth right now. Maybe you don't. If you'd prefer to tone it down, just soak the onion bits in cold water for 15 minutes or so after chopping.)

This is a salad that eats more like a gratin, without the cheese hangover. As Ameliorator put it, "It's vegan, but warm and filling and never leaves you thinking it would have been improved with bacon." 

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

It's hefty enough to be the only thing on the table, light enough to not make you groggy, lively enough to make winter squash -- and winter itself -- a lot more compelling.

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad from Food52

Moro's Warm Squash & Chickpea Salad with Tahini

Adapted slightly from Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark (Edbury Press, 2005)

Serves 4

2 pounds pumpkin or other winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
14 ounces canned or home-cooked chickpeas, drained
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a pinch of salt
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespoons water, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • SageDawn
  • Alex Txn
    Alex Txn
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    Penelope Shepherd
  • Whitney
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


SageDawn October 11, 2015
Thank you Laura415
I have tried several brands of Tahini the names of which I will not put in this discussion, but all were roasted and the least expensive I found. I would like to try unroasted Tahini, as I adore the flavor of sesame oils and seeds. The one recipe I tried from Ottolenghi contained roasted butternut and had lime in the Tahini sauce. This sauce was one I found inedible and I have not often been dissapointed with any of his recipes. So if anyone could clue me in on a reliably fresh brand of Tahini roasted or not, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks Again
SageDawn October 7, 2015
I would so love to try more recipes with tahini based sauces, but alas I have found that the flavor is quite bitter. I recently prepared a butternut squash with tahini dressing recipe from one of Ottolehghi's books and I found it inedible. Help! is it just the roasted types I have tried? perhaps someone can recommend a good tahini; as it is obvious that bitter is not everyone's experience with this common ingredient. This recipe sounds delicious and I would like to keep working with it. Thanks
Laura415 October 11, 2015
Tahini has a nutty and sometimes bitter taste . But bitter with the sweet of the squash and onion along with the acidity of the lemon is a great flavor combo. I don't see why you can't use some other nut/seed butter instead of tahini though. You will thin it with the addition of lemon juice, water and oil so it should approximate the thickness of the dressing with no problem. Your dressing will be sweeter if the nut butter you use is on the sweet side. Again no problem but the dish loses some of the complexity so be sure to add the herbs to get that complexity back.
Alex T. October 7, 2015
A friend gave me a butternut squash, and I had no idea what to use it for.
At least now after reading the recipe I know how to use it.
krystine October 1, 2014
just made this for dinner and it was excellent! i added some flaked poached salmon on top, deish.
Penelope S. July 30, 2014
I love this recipe, I've made it about 5 times now in the last few months. It makes a great lunch meal :)
Whitney March 15, 2014
While I love all the individual ingredients in this recipe, I just didn't think they came together in any balanced way. The red onion was still sharp after soaking and it fought with the tahini and squash flavors. It was total discord. Luckily, a friend had the genius idea to turn it into soup. We removed the onions and sauteed them while we heated some broth. Then we mixed the onions, broth, and rest of the salad along with some leftover garlic mashed potatoes, and voila! A hearty, warm soup that I'll probably never be able to recreate! Bon apetit, at last!
Shelley H. March 2, 2014
Sounds wonderful and I look forward to trying it. My husband does not like cilantro. Is there another herb that anyone would recommend that would work particularly well with this?
Jema March 8, 2014
I might suggest trying Celery Leaves. But because of their mild flavor and cilantro-like textures, celery leaves lend a very similar flavour.
Shelley H. March 8, 2014
Thank for the suggestion, Jema. I never would have thought of celery leaves. I think I'll give it a try.
wendy W. February 7, 2014
Would be a genius if I could get someone to eat it. I think I might hate tahini paste. Followed recipe exactly, it was horrid.
Laura415 October 11, 2015
Use a different nut/seed butter in the dressing:)
MattieK February 5, 2014
Well, this was so good! I borrowed Yotam Ottolenghi's technique of soaking the red onion in a tablespoon or two of red-wine vinegar to lessen the bite and give it a pickle-y taste, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Delicious.
Canalcook February 4, 2014
This is one of my favourite recipes, I've been making it for years. They serve it a lot in Morito, their tapas place, but now the chickpeas are fried in spices first.
Kimberly Z. January 26, 2014
This was a good recipe, but next time I think I will roast the squash with a little cumin and cayenne pepper. I always like a little heat.
Casey B. January 24, 2014
I'm looking forward to trying this. Thank you for the tip on soaking onions in water for 15 minutes, as I was considering omitting them. I have a love hate relationship with raw onions due to them taking over my taste buds for an entire day!
Diane P. January 24, 2014
I made this last night and it's terrific! I shaved the red onion into half-moon slices, just because I felt like it, but didn't change anything else. Double the dressing--you'll want to eat it with a spoon while you're doing dishes.
denise&food January 23, 2014
I made the dressing and have been putting it on my salads...it is very good!
Lori W. January 23, 2014
I made this last nite and it is absolutely WONDERFUL!! Thank you!!
Paula Z. January 22, 2014
For those of us who don't want or can't have sesame tahini, this recipe will no less awesome if you use a little natural nut butter and thin it with veg broth or water to tahini consistency, plus a couple of drops of liquid smoke.
Parchita January 22, 2014
This is indeed a genius recipe, and some kudos are due to Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, who has likely introduced the recipe to legions of home cooks since she posted it five years ago (and who was herself introduced to the recipe via the food blog Orangette). http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/01/warm-butternut-squash-and-chickpea-salad/
Carol January 23, 2014
...and Deb also credits it with being from Casa Moro , as does Orangette http://orangette.blogspot.com.au/2007/10/sneaky-sneaky.html as does this blog entry you're now reading!
I'm at a loss to understand why people feel that every other blog that has posted a recipe in the past needs to be acknowledged when the original source has already been hailed.
Parchita January 23, 2014
I'm sorry my comments came across as something negative or critical. I simply wanted to affirm the fabulousness of this recipe and that its history of being shared on food blogs underscores its broad and enduring appeal. Also, I love Deb.
Carol January 23, 2014
It's fine Parchita, don't be sorry. It's just something I constantly come across when a great recipe is posted on a blog somewhere. I guess your post caught me at a weak moment! Didn't intend to offend - and, yes, Deb is wonderful!
samanthaalison January 22, 2014
This column is Genius Recipes. It posts once a week. Also, you are wrong about this recipe not being genius.
solmstea January 22, 2014
This is exactly the recipe I've been waiting for! I have two butternut squash and plenty of chickpeas waiting for me at home, so dinner is decided. Excellent.

However, a broader comment: why is everything on Food52 labeled "Genius"? This seems really tasty, but not "Genius." In the past two months there's been "Genius" spicy Harissa, "Genius" brussels sprouts, "Genius" salad tricks, "Genius" hot and sour soup, "Genius" whole roasted cauliflower...seems like the editors need a new superlative or maybe a higher bar. Everyone is not above average, here. Might I suggest "rich" or "bright" (for the tahini) or "Foolproof" for the whole roasted Cauliflower or basically anything other than Genius, unless there really is something uniquely creative about a dish or the method of preparation, which is what I expect when I see the word "Genius."
solmstea January 22, 2014
I guess I missed the part where this is in the "Genius recipes" division. Oh well, still irks me.
clcatto January 22, 2014
This looks delicious. I make a similar version but add roasted beets and kale (from the surprisingly amazing salad that Starbucks puts out) but had to guess at the dressing. Can't wait to try it.