Middle East

roasted butternut squash with tahini yogurt sauce

I love tahini. Tahini is to sesame seeds as peanut butter is to peanuts. It is the second ingredient in good hummus after garbanzo beans. In fact, this sauce is like really good, authentic hummus with yogurt instead of garbanzo beans. Tahini yogurt sauce is very simple and flavorful; creamy, salty, lemony.  In this recipe, I roasted a whole butternut squash then topped it with this sauce.  It’s a delicious and pretty side dish or a wonderful vegetarian meal on its own. Plenty of fiber and protein!

roasted butternut squash with tahini yogurt sauce

serves 2


1 small butternut squash

yogurt tahini sauce:

8 ounces 2% or whole milk greek yogurt

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic- finely grated with a micro plane grater. I have this one and I use it all the time.

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked paprika (optional)

good salt like kosher and fresh ground pepper


1 thinly sliced hot pepper such as fresno or red serrano

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash in half the long way. Scoop out all of the seeds. Drizzle with a tablespoon of the olive oil and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Roast the squash, cut side up, in the oven for 45 minutes. You want it to be really soft so it may take up to an hour, especially if you don’t use a small squash. Don’t rush this part because you’ll regret it if you do.

Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, grated garlic cloves, and cayenne or paprika. Mix well. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil a little bit at a time until it’s all mixed in.  Taste it and add a little or lots of salt and pepper.  You want it to be a little on the salty side. At least I always do!

Take out the roasted squash. Fill in the hole of the squash with plenty of the sauce.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and sliced hot peppers and drizzle with more olive oil. Enjoy!

ps- tahini yogurt sauce is good with so many things such as any roasted vegetable or as a veggie or chip dip. I love it with roasted beef or lamb too.

Middle East

easy oven roasted chicken with onions, olives, and preserved lemon

Roasted chicken has always been one of my favorite things.  Skin on, bone in.  They both give so much flavor. Remember when everyone was in love with boneless, skinless, breasts?  Many still are. I’m going to be bold and say that I am 100% team thigh.  They’re so juicy and flavorful and harder to overcook.  This recipe is one of my favorite weeknight recipes because you can prep it the night before or in the morning.  I love all the briny, fermented, umami goodness that preserved lemons bring, but you could easily use fresh lemons.   Olives continue the briny goodness. Buy some good black and or green olives at the olive bar.  If I buy a whole jar of olives they almost always go to waste. I love the olive bar because I can buy just 5 olives if I want to.  I highly recommend buying olives with the pits still in.  Similar to how bone in meat has more flavor, unpitted olives are more flavorful than pitted.  Onions finish off this dish adding a sweetness quality after they have been cooked down and soaked up all the delicious chicken drippings.

oven roasted chicken with onions, olives, and preserved lemon

serves 4


4-5 chiken thighs (bone in, skin on)

1  onion, sliced

1 preserved (or fresh) lemon, sliced

6 olives, smashed to get the pit out then cut in half

1/4 cup avocado oil

salt and pepper

chopped parsley  and Aleppo Pepper (optional) for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Sprinkle both sides with plenty of salt and pepper. Place in a 9×13 baking dish. Arange the sliced lemon and onion evenly all around the chicken.  Sprinkle on the olives.  Pour the avocado oil over everything. Put into the pre-heated oven and roast for about 50 min. You’ll want the skin to be crispy.  If it doesn’t crisp up to your liking, a couple of tricks are pouring a little more olive over the skin before it’s done cooking, or turning the oven to broil and broiling it for a couple of minutes.  But don’t ever leave a broiling oven! I have a friend who takes this so seriously that she just sits in front of the oven, face close to the window, the entire time she broils. Take it out of the oven and let it sit a couple minutes.  Serve it with rice, quinoa, or Israeli couscous.  I served it with my favorite little grain blend, Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains.  There is a great description of it on this blog.

Here’s what I did for the Harvest Grains:

I cooked the grains according to the package, chopped up about 2 Tablespoons of almonds and a 1/4 cup of parsley.  After the grains were cooked, I poured in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and added the chopped almonds and parsley.  I spread the grain mixture on a large platter and arranged the chicken dish over the top. Then I sprinkled everything with more parsley and a little Aleppo Pepper Enjoy!


Middle East

Pilpelchuma is the new harissa?

Sriracha was the new Tobasco. Harissa is the new Sriracha.  Pilpelchuma will be the new Harissa? I hope so.  A few years ago, my sister gifted me a cookbook that changed my kitchen.  For the first time, it took me to Jerusalem! Jerusalem is a cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi.  Amazing chefs who write amazing books. Towards the end of the cookbook is a section on condiments.  There I found pilpelchuma.  A chile paste made from dried then rehydrated medium hot chiles and powder.  It also has SO much garlic, lots of paprika and cayenne pepper, caraway (which makes it really distinct), and cumin.  You can find his recipe here. Or, better yet, buy Jerusalem!

I actually set out to make this pilpelchuma the other day, but like usual, my cooking is often spontaneous causing me to improvise.  Improvisation for me stems not usually from creativity, but often times from laziness.  I don’t want to go to the store just to buy caraway seeds! What I made was a sort of riff on pilpechuma.  And since I didn’t have caraway seeds, I’m not certain I can call it pilpelchuma.

You’ll like this recipe.  It tastes dangerous without consequences (except garlic breath).

Pilpelchuma (sort of)


Dried Peppers: Arbol, Guajillo, Cascabel (2 of each)

4 Tablespoons Hot Hatch Chile Powder or Hot Paprika

1 Tablespoon smoked Paprika

1 Tablespoon Aleppo Pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

An entire bulb of garlic

1/2-1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

I bought my dried peppers from Penzy’s Spices.

Soak the dried peppers in warm water for about 20-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, break apart the garlic bulb and crack away the cloves from their skin. No need to chop them up.  Use a pestle and mortar to semi-grind your cumin if using whole seeds.  After the chiles have soaked, take them out of the water and reserve the water to use later. Don’t pour it out! It’s got that chile flavor now.  Take the stems off the chiles and cut them into large pieces.  Add the chiles, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and all other ingredients (except the olive oil) to a food processor.  Add just a few spoonfuls of the reserved chile water. Blend, blend, blend. Slowly, pulse in all of the olive oil. Scrape off the sides and blend a little more.  You want it to be a thick paste but not too thick. Add a few more spoonfuls of the water and blend until desires consistency.  Taste it.  I told you it feels dangerous! Add more salt if needed.  Use this chile paste the way you used Sriracha in 2008. I actually smeared it on a cheap breakfast burrito this morning.  My next post will be on roasted chicken thighs and pilpelchuma is amazing smeared on those before and after roasting.  Put your pilpelchuma in a sealed jar and it will keep for a few weeks.  Pour a little olive oil to cover the top every once in a while and that will help preserve it.