Smashed Winter Squash Toast with Za’atar and Feta

IMG_1627Back in October, I was lucky enough to be a guest instructor at South End Kitchen in Burlington, VT, the joint restaurant and cooking school run by my cousin chef Sarah Langan. Recreational classes have a big focus on chocolate, as South End is run in conjunction with the Lake Champlain Chocolate company. The theme of our class was all things Mediterrean and focused on authentic ingredients like za’atar, sumac, sesame and orange blossom water with local Vermont dairy, eggs and gorgeous produce. Here’s what we made:

  • Smashed Winter Squash Toast with Za’atar and Feta
  • Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce)
  • Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Pomegranate
  • Orange Blossom Yogurt with Sesame and Citrus
  • Apple Bitters and Prosecco  – we had to have a cocktail, of course!

Thank you again to the entire South End team for the opportunity! I will definitely be back to Burlington soon.

Here’s the recipe for the toast – perfect for brunch or cut into pieces as an appetizer.

Smashed Winter Squash Toast with Za’atar and Feta

Serves about 8

  • 1 small winter squash, such as kabocha or delicata, cut into 1” pieces*
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile flakes, plus more for topping
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 8 or more thick slices country or sourdough bread (or your favorite artisan bread)
  • 1/2 cup fresh feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar*
  • Handful chopped fresh mint

Heat oven to 425F. Toss squash with a few tablespoons of oil, a big pinch of salt, pepper and chile flakes. Spread onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes until soft and caramelized.

While squash is roasting, caramelize onions. Heat a few more tablespoons of oil in a medium saute pan on medium-low heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until dark and jammy, about 30 minutes. Add a splash of water to the pan if onions dry out. Add vinegar and syrup and cook about 10 more minutes.

In a large bowl, combine squash and onion mixture and smash with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. You want some texture here, not a completely smooth mixture. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Toast bread in a toaster or better yet, drizzled with a bit of oil, salt and pepper and toasted on a sheet tray @ 375F until golden brown. Spread squash mixture onto toast and sprinkle with feta, za’atar and more chile flakes. Finish with fresh mint.

*No need to peel kabocha or delicata (really). If using butternut, make sure to peel.

*Za’atar is a an ancient Mediterranean spice blend typically made with thyme or oregano, sumac, sesame seeds and sometimes cumin. Sumac is a dark red spice that has a tart lemony zing. Za’atar is delicious on grilled or roasted meats and fish, hummus and even roasted sweet potatoes. Find it online, in specialty Mediterranean shops or Whole Foods. Or, makeyour own using this recipe from 101 Cookbook 

Maple Pumpkin Spice Quinoa Granola

IMG_0765

A recent NYMag.com headline stated: “America Hits the Pumpkin Spice Saturation Point”. They’ve got a point. If you’ve been to Trader Joe’s in the past two months, you’ll notice the PS (pardon the abbrev) domination in all manner of prepared foods. From beer to baking mix and frankly, All The Carbs, food marketers have jumped on the PS bandwagon and they’re not getting off.

The pumpkin squash, in itself, is not super flavorful. But when combined with cinnamon-spice and everything nice, it becomes an obsession. In an effort to stay as true to it’s roots (pumpkin pie, remember that?), this granola hits all of fall’s high points. Maple syrup, toasty oats and warming spices create a simple topper for yogurt, ice cream or simply stuffed in your face by the handful (…ahem…) I stopped buying cereal regularly a few years ago, so this tasted liked heaven to me with some almond milk and banana. I got in the habit of adding quinoa to my granola after I ran out of sesame seeds one day. Granola is really a blank canvas for anything lurking in your pantry – so add those sesame seeds, or pumpkin seeds, or dried cranberries. Don’t be afraid of the olive oil here, it’s not going to taste like salad. This recipe can be doubled (or tripled!) and lasts for about a month.

Maple Pumpkin Spice Quinoa Granola

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I like Fleur de Sel)
  • 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or make your own)
  • 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa (any color)
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts or seeds (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried fruit (optional)

Heat oven to 325F. In a large bowl, whisk oil, maple syrup, pumpkin, salt and spices. Stir in quinoa and oats until evening coated. Spread onto a large parchment-lined rimmed sheet tray. Bake for about 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. If you’re using nuts or seeds, add them in the last 10 minutes so they toast. Remove from oven and press down on granola with the back of a spatula. Sprinkle on dried fruit, if you’re using it. Allow to cool completely before breaking up into chunks.