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Roasted Squash with Kale and Tahini Dressing

Back before we moved across the country, when I was able to attend my family's gigantic Thanksgiving potluck, I always brought roasted vegetables.

The first year I did this, I think I saw something in Martha Stewart Living about roasting all different kinds of vegetables together (leave it to Martha to be ahead of the curve). At the time, I was a vegetarian, and bringing roasted vegetables was a form of self preservation. But even after lapsing back into omnivorism, I continued the tradition.

I did this because when I think of food and thankfulness, a plate piled with all manner of bronzed tender vegetables seems to sum it up. It's like a cornucopia, just chopped up and roasted to succulence with olive oil, salt and pepper, and maybe some herbs. It's very much like a still life--simple, vibrant, and beautiful.

I find myself doing quite a lot of roasting in the fall. It is a season that offers up foods for the hearth. Autumn's vegetables are dense, knobby, and jacketed in thick skins with deep, subtle hues. These sorts of vegetables are best approached with a sharp knife and patience. There is no rushing a rutabaga. Or a beet for that matter.

This year, I chose winter squash as my roasting companion. These are the darlings of cold season cookery--naturally sweet, nutritious and lovely, winter squashes are easy to love. When it comes to cooking, though, they are not to be hurried. They benefit from a lengthy sojourn in a hot oven; long enough for the flesh to caramelize. For this dish, I paired simply roasted delicata squash with an easy tahini dressing, marinated kale, and pomegranate seeds. It's a colorful dish that hits all the right notes.

I am generally not in the squash peeling camp, especially for a tender squash like delicata. I also love the colors of the striped skin. However, if you choose another squash for this dish (and practically any winter squash will work here), you may wish to peel it.  The marinated kale is a riff on my favorite raw kale salad, but there's no reason you can't use cooked greens as a bed for the squash.

Other winter squash goodness: Winter Squash Mac and Cheese, Harissa-Roasted Squash and Carrots, Pumpkin Curry

Roasted Squash with Kale and Tahini Dressing
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

This recipe is loosely based on one by Autumn from Autumn Makes and Does.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.
To prepare the squash, cut in half lengthwise:
           1 medium delicata squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Scoop out the seeds (a grapefruit spoon is perfect for this) and reserve for roasting, if desired. Cut off the very ends of the squash halves and discard. Cut the squash into 1/2-inch thick half moons. Toss in a bowl with:
           2 tablespoons olive oil
           1 teaspoon kosher salt
Place in a single layer on a baking pan and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip each piece of squash, and roast 20 more minutes or until beginning to caramelize. If the squash isn't as brown as you'd like it, feel free to roast it longer.
While the squash roasts, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, combine:
           3 tablespoons plain yogurt (whole milk Greek yogurt is preferable, but regular yogurt will work)
           1 tablespoon tahini
           1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane or mashed to a paste
           Salt and lemon juice to taste
Have ready:
           Arils from one pomegranate (see my favorite seeding technique here)
Now, prepare the kale. Remove the central ribs from:
           One bunch lacinato (dinosaur) kale (about 8 to 10 leaves)
Stack the leaves on top of one another and slice crosswise into ribbons. In the bottom of a medium bowl, combine:
           1 clove garlic, grated or mashed to a paste
           2 tablespoons lemon juice
           1 tablespoon olive oil
           Pinch salt
Toss the kale with the lemon juice mixture, massaging the kale as you toss. Kale is a hearty green and can sit in this dressing for up to several hours, so you can do this step ahead of time if you like.
To assemble, arrange the kale on a serving platter, then top with the squash. Drizzle the tahini dressing over the squash, and top with pomegranate seeds. If desired, sprinkle with:
           (Za'atar, dukkah, or sumac)

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