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 

Jamie Oliver’s Beef Stew with Butternut Squash and Sunchokes


This recipe is a Jamie Oliver classic, by way of my aunt. I am a big fan of Jamie, in particular what he’s doing across the pond at Recipease. I would love to travel to London and teach take a class there one day…

At first glance, this looked like any old recipe for beef stew. But looking closer, there was squash and sunchokes and a garlicky gremolata. What really caught my attention was the cooking method: Jamie doesn’t brown his meat, instead he sweats the onions, then throws everything else in the pot. This goes against all my training, but lo and behold: it worked. With the addition of the vegetables, the stew had a distinct sweetness; a welcome change from most other dark, intense beef stews.

Feel free to play around with the vegetables here. Swap out the butternut for sweet potato or kabocha squash and use any root vegetables you like (turnips would be good). Do not skip the gremolata – the stew needs a bit of herby tang to bring all that butternut sweetness into focus.

Jamie Oliver’s Beef Stew with Butternut Squash and Sunchokes

Serves about 4-5



  • Olive oil
  • A small knob of butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • handful of fresh sage leaves
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • Handful sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), quartered (optional, see note)
  • 1 lb. small potatoes, quartered (optional, see note)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-1 3/4 lbs. beef stew meat (such as beef chuck), cut into 2″ pieces and tossed with a bit of flour
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 1/4 cups beef or chicken stock


  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Handful fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 glove garlic, minced

Heat oven to 300F. Melt butter and oil in a large oven-safe Dutch oven. Add onion and sage and sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the parsnips, carrot, butternut, sunchokes and/or potatoes. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the meat, wine and stock and stir together. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and place in the heated oven.

Braise the stew for 2-4 hours, checking after 2 hours for doneness. The meat should fall apart easily with a fork. Cooking time will depend on your meat; it may take as long as 4 hours depending on how fresh your meat is. Taste and season with salt and pepper. You may hold the cooked stew until ready to serve at 225F.

Stir together the lemon zest, rosemary and garlic. Sprinkle a bit of the gremolata on each bowl of stew before serving. Best eaten with good red wine.

Note:I decided to omit the potatoes, as the sunchokes provide enough texture for my taste. One of my favorite ways to serve a braise like this is over mashed potatoes, so in lieu of potato overload, I opt to nix them.

You may find sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) at Whole Foods or your local farmer’s market. They look like a gnarly potato, but have a sweet, nutty flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. If you can’t find them, don’t sweat it, just add potatoes.

Autumn Salads

While I love the tomato, basil and mozzarella-flecked salads of summer, I look forward to the rough-and-tough meals of autumn.  The cooler weather gives you license to crank the oven and roast, my favorite method for preparing hearty fall vegetables.

Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, squash, cauliflower – they all benefit at 425F. To make dinner happen quicker, roast off a couple trays of veggies on the weekend: toss chopped/sliced veggies with a bit of olive oil and salt. Spread out on a baking sheet (lined with parchment, if you have it). Roast at 425F until golden brown (depending on your veggie, about 15 minutes). When you get home from work, toss room temp or gently warmed veggies with salad greens, dressing and an “extra” or two like crumbly cheese, toasted nuts or beans. If you like the contrast of sweet and salty, here’s your chance to add thinly sliced apple, pear or dried fruit.

A few of my favorite combinations this fall (all with baby chard, kale and spinach greens and my favorite vinaigrette, recipe below):

Roasted acorn squash, Parmesan, apple


Roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, avocado

Roasted sweet potato and  {orange} cauliflower, pickled shallot

Cider Vinaigrette
In a jar, combine 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon minced shallot, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, a splash of apple cider and 6 tablespoons oil (I used a combination of hazelnut oil and grapeseed oil, but a not-too-intense olive oil works, too). Shake it up. Add salt, pepper and more of everything to taste.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter

Despite the Halloween snowpocalypse and red-and-green spectacle at Duane Reade, it’s still Fall, guys. Take advantage of the season and a break from turkey-mania. Butternut squash is the quintessential seasonal veggie. Hearty and, well, buttery, it makes a lovely addition to delicate gnocchi and dreamy brown butter sauce. If you still have turkey on the mind, this would make a stellar vegetarian dish at your T-Day table.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter


  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled, quartered
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (or more) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • Additional grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut squash lengthwise in half; discard seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on baking sheet and brush with oil. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with skewer and browned in spots, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly. Scoop flesh from squash into processor; puree until smooth. Transfer to medium saucepan; stir constantly over medium heat until juices evaporate and puree thickens, about 5 minutes. Cool. Measure 1 cup (packed) squash puree (reserve remaining squash for another use).
  2. Meanwhile, cook potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. While potato is warm, press through potato ricer into medium bowl; cool completely. Measure 2 cups (loosely packed) riced potato (reserve remaining potato for another use).
  3. Mix squash, potato, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl. Gradually add 1 3/4 cups flour, kneading gently into mixture in bowl until dough holds together and is almost smooth. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead gently but briefly just until smooth. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.
  4. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with flour. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll dough out on floured surface to about 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut rope crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along back of fork tines dipped in flour, making ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
  5. Working in 2 batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, 15 to 17 minutes (gnocchi will float to surface but may come to surface before being fully cooked). Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to same parchment-lined baking sheets. Cool.
  6. Cook butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat just until golden, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage; stir 1 minute. Add gnocchi; cook until heated through and coated with butter, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

-Recipe loosely adapted from Bon Appetit

Zucchini & Feta Pizza with Caramelized Balsamic Onions and Garlic Oil

One of my favorite parts about living in Brooklyn is the Saturday farmer’s market at Grand Army Plaza. I’m a pretty faithful marketer, so to speak, trekking down Prospect Park West even in the winter! But there is nothing like the market in summer. Huge heirloom tomatoes, juicy peaches and curly mounds of herbs entice even the most die-hard Trader Joe’s fan. On this particular Saturday, I picked up a couple nice looking zucchini, a massive bunch of basil, a few eggplant, green tomatoes and the perfect peach (which I ate on the way home, natch). Talk about recipe inspiration!

This flatbread-style pizza is right on. Yes, there are quite a few components, but as always, adapt to suit your tastes and whatever’s in your market basket. The farmer’s market: it’s what’s for dinner.

Zucchini & Feta Pizza with Caramelized Balsamic Onions and Garlic Oil

Yield: 1 12-14 inch pie

  • 1-2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup basil, chopped
  • 1/2 recipe Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (see below)
  • 2 T. Garlic Oil (see below)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced zucchini. Saute until zucchini are light golden brown. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until garlic is fragrant. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool slightly, remove from pan and set aside.
  3.  Heat olive oil in the same skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced onion and a pinch of salt. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown and soft (caramelized). Increase heat, add balsamic and reduce until slightly thickened. Let cool slightly, remove from pan and set aside.
  4.  To assemble pizza, roll out dough until desired thickness and place on a baking sheet lightly dusted with cornmeal. I like to free-form it! Drizzle Chili Garlic Oil over pizza and sprinkle with zucchini, onions and Feta cheese. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped basil and a drizzle of Chili Garlic oil.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Yield: 2 12-14 inch crusts (Freeze one!)

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. olive oil
  •  3 cups white whole wheat flour (I used Trader Joe’s), plus more for kneading
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Combine warm water, yeast and sugar. Let side 2-3 minutes until yeast is dissolved and water is cloudy. Add olive oil.
  2.  In a food processor, pulse flour and salt. While processor is running, stream in water/yeast mixture until a ball of dough forms (may have to add a little more flour).
  3.  Scrape dough from processor and knead on a floured surface for a few minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours.
  4.  Place desired amount of dough on a sheet pan and cover with a damp towel. Let rest 15-20 minutes while you prep your toppings. You can freeze extra dough in a plastic bag.

Garlic Oil

Yield: 1/2 cup

  •  1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Gently heat oil, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Be careful not to boil; you are simply warming the oil. Remove from heat and let steep 10 minutes. Strain and set aside until ready to use.

Zucchini with Couscous Stuffing

I had zucchini…and little else. I remembered a recipe I saw in Real Simple magazine for stuffed zucchini. Suddenly finding myself out of quinoa, void of cherry tomatoes and lacking cannelini beans I improvised with couscous, canned, drained tomatoes and good ol’ garbanzos. A few almonds, some Parmesan and my Sunday night was looking a little brighter.

I’m planning on using the leftover filling to stuff peppers and perhaps eggplant this week. And BONUS JONAS*, the filling is quite tasty on its own, like the grain salads at Whole Foods.

Zucchini with Couscous Stuffing

Recipe adapted from Real Simple magazine

Serves 4

Total Time: 55 minutes

  • 1 cup dry couscous (I used whole wheat)
  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans (garbanzo, cannelini etc.) rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained OR 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup almonds, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Cook couscous according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Arrange in a large baking dish, cut-side up.
  3. Fluff the couscous and fold in the beans, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, 1/2 of the Parmesan, oregano and 3 tablespoons of the oil.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the zucchini. Top with the remaining tablespoon of oil and rest of the Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake until the zucchini is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

*Bonus Jonas, also known as Frankie Jonas, is the youngest of the Jonas Brothers, the pop group known for their tight pants and wholesome virtues.  For all intents and purposes, any reference to “Bonus Jonas” is not referring to Frankie, but to that “wait, there’s more!” feeling you get, culinary speaking, a sort of post-script, i.e. “I found an extra fry at the bottom of the bag. Bonus Jonas!”

Harvest Moon Pasta


This comforting dish is a grown-up take on mac ‘n cheese. Using my favorite ingredient of the month, butternut squash, the sauce is creamy without the addition of too much cheese or butter. Frozen butternut squash puree is the secret, a grocery store find that tastes great and cuts prep time. Whole wheat pasta not only adds nutrition, but nutty flavor and hearty texture. I like the addition of thyme, but feel free to use any herbs you like – rosemary or sage would be a nice substitution.



1 lb whole wheat pasta (macaroni, ziti or penne   hollow, ribbed pasta)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion

1-2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons thyme (fresh preferred, dried is fine, too)

1-2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups milk

salt and pepper

1 dash nutmeg

1 (12 ounce) package frozen butternut squash, thawed

hot sauce

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1 dash paprika



Bring water to a boil, season with salt and cook macaroni to al dente.

Preheat broiler and place rack in middle of the oven.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a sauce pot over medium heat, saute onions and garlic until soft, 6 to 7 minutes and stir in the thyme.

Scoot onions off to side of pan and melt butter, whisk flour into butter and combine whisk 1 minute then whisk in stock and milk, season sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and cook until thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in butternut squash and a few dashes hot sauce. Reduce heat. When sauce comes to a bubble, stir in Parmigiano. Combine the sauce and macaroni, transfer to a casserole dish and top with shredded yellow Cheddar, chopped parsley and paprika. Brown the macaroni under broiler, 4 to 5 minutes until brown and bubbly.

-Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Autumn Squash and Kale


Another Sunday, another soup. After Mo sent me a slew of pumpkin and squash recipes from Cookstr, I knew I had to make this dish. I have wanted to try my hand at split pea soup and this recipe fit the bill. Lots of seasonal veggies? Check. Ease of preparation? Check. Vegetarian? Check. Inexpensive? Check. In fact, like last week’s pasta and my lentil soup, this dish clocks in at around $5 for a HUGE pot. Looks like I’m giving another blog a run for its money.


This recipe is extremely versatile. Don’t like squash? Try diced potatoes (cooking time may vary.) Forgot the fresh rosemary? A pinch of dried also works. The kale can be substituted for spinach or chard, or left out altogether.



2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups dried yellow split peas

1 fresh rosemary sprig, 4 inches long

1 tsp. dried thyme

4 cups vegetable broth, plus more for thinning

salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces hard shelled squash, such as kabocha or butternut, in 1/3 inch dice (about 2 cups)

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and diced

1/3 pound kale or green chard, ribs removed (about 1 large bunch)

A few drops hot sauce (optional)




Heat olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is soft and sweet, about 10 minutes. Add split peas, rosemary sprig, thyme and 4 cups broth and 4 cups water.

Bring to a simmer, cover and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until split peas are completely soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Taste often and remove rosemary sprig when rosemary flavor is strong enough. (It should be subtle.)

Season soup with salt and pepper.

Stir in squash, tomatoes and hot sauce, if using. Stack kale leaves a few at a time and slice into ribbons about ¼ inch wide. Stir them into the soup, cover and cook until squash and kale are tender, about 20 minutes.

If soup is a little thick, thin with vegetable broth.

Taste and adjust seasoning before serving.

Note: Like all soups based on legumes, this one thickens considerably as it cools. If you make it ahead, you will need to thin it with a mixture of broth and water in equal amounts.

-Adapted from Fresh from the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher