The sweet, nutty flavor of roasted butternut squash pairs best with flavors that are bold enough to balance that sweetness. To fill this role in our roasted butternut squash salad, we chose the traditional Middle Eastern spice blend za'atar (a pungent combination of toasted sesame seeds, thyme, marjoram, and sumac). We found that using high heat and placing the rack in the lowest position produced perfectly browned squash with a firm center in about 30 minutes. Dusting the za'atar over the hot squash worked much like toasting the spice, boosting its flavor. For a foil to the tender squash, we considered a host of nuts before landing on toasted pumpkin seeds. They provided the textural accent the dish needed and reinforced the squash's flavor. Pomegranate seeds added a burst of tartness and color. Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are available at most supermarkets and natural foods stores. You can substitute chopped red grapes or small blueberries for the pomegranate seeds.
3–3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces (8–10 cups)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon za'atar spice blend
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup unsalted pepitas, toasted
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil in bowl and season with salt and pepper. Lay squash in single layer on rimmed baking sheet and roast until well browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting time. Remove squash from oven, sprinkle with za'atar, and let cool for 15 minutes.
2. Whisk shallot, lemon juice, honey, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Add squash, parsley, and pepitas and toss gently to combine. Arrange on platter, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, and serve.
Copyright 2016 America's Test Kitchen. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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