By Chef Linda
Running out of ideas about what to do with spaghetti squash? Of course, you may love it with vegan meatballs and tomato sauce. Or split roasted and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. Maybe you've even cut it into rings, roasted it, and added a splash of maple syrup, a pinch or two of salt and cinnamon, and chopped walnuts. All terrific ways to enjoy this incredibly delicious and healthy winter squash, but as fortune would have it, I was looking to jazz things up a bit.
One of my cool weather, boorish pleasures is roasting a whole winter squash (that's right, I don't even cut it in half), then keeping it in the fridge, ready to nibble on when I'm feeling a little peckish at odd times of the day. I plunge a fork into it's browned and sunken shell, tear it open, then stand at the counter, crudely and unashamedly working my way around the seeds, scooping out spoonfuls of the tender, sweet, orange flesh until I'm satisfied and delighted with the many virtues of my mini-meal. I recently tried it with spaghetti squash and wasn't as enamored with its cold, bland taste as I am with its sister orange squash. What then, to do with this cold heap of golden strands? Make salad!
This is where a well-stocked pantry comes in handy. A can of chickpeas and some raw pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) were about to dress up these cold squash noodles and escort them into the limelight as a sumptuous Mediterranean salad, bold enough to stand in for a meal, but light enough to serve as a creative alternative to a green salad in colder months. Roasting the chickpeas and pepitas with warming spices like cumin and smoked paprika took these humble ingredients from average to outstanding. A simple tahini dressing added the necessary and luscious creaminess that gently tied together the varied flavors and textures. Oh sure, this dish is also full of fiber, vitamins, protein, and calcium, but I digress from the real reason why this is my new favorite salad; it's just plain delicious.
Spaghetti Squash and Roasted Chickpea Salad is perfect for a holiday table–gorgeous and unusual–but I can hardly wait for lunch.
Spaghetti Squash and Roasted Chickpea Salad
1 (2 to 3 pound) spaghetti squash
1 (14.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup raw pepitas or pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
1/2 teaspoon onion granules
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
About 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
For the Tahini Dressing
1/3 cup tahini
1 tablespoons olive oil or toasted sesame oil
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup warm water
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Place whole squash on a baking tray or in a casserole dish. Roast for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the squash with a sharp knife. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, cut the squash in half width-wise, around the center. Use a fork to pull out the seeds and discard (or clean and roast with oil, salt, and pepper). Gently scrape strands of squash into a large bowl or serving dish. This can be done several days in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator.
While the squash is roasting, line a baking tray with parchment paper. Put chickpeas and pepitas in a medium bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle with cumin, garlic, onion, smoked paprika, and salt. Toss to coat. Scoop out onto prepared baking tray and arrange in a single layer. Roast in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chickpeas are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
To make the tahini dressing, whisk tahini, oil, lemon juice, and salt together in a small bowl. Add water and stir until smooth. Add more water to thin, if necessary.
To serve, flavor spaghetti squash by tossing with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and lemon juice. Transfer chickpeas and pepitas to bowl with squash. Add parsley and gently toss everything together. Drizzle with tahini dressing and serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold. This dish can also be served hot.