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 

Classes and More this Fall


Do you ever have one of those summer’s that altogether flies by? That was this summer. We’re still in the thick of it (hello, humidity), but I can’t help but think about Fall. Here’s what I’ve been cooking up…

Cooking classes at Sur La Table

Check the calendar in the next week for my updated classes for September. Some highlights are a collaboration with Matt Lewis of Baked in Brooklyn and the myth, the legend, Pat LaFrieda! If you like pastries and/or badass butchery, sign up now!

Farm Dinner at Meadowburn Farm in Vernon, NJ September 26th

I’ll be part of a team of 3 chefs cooking an Indian-themed farm dinner in nearby Warwick, NY. A short trip from NYC, the dinner will be held at Meadowburn Farm, one of the preeminent heirloom flower farms in the country. With dairy cows, sprawling gardens and our own wood-fired oven, this farm table dinner is sure to be memorable! Purchase tickets here. The farm was recently featured in the September issue or Martha Stewart Living!

Cooking Class in Burlington, VT, October 18th

I’ll be hitting the road and teaching in Vermont this October! Join me on 10/18 at South End Kitchen in Burlington. I’ll be teaching a Mediterranean Brunch class (with a farm table! And cocktails!) The menu:

  • Shakshuka
  • Smashed squash toast with za’atar and feta
  • Sweet Potato, arugula and pomegranate salad with a sumac vinagrette
  • Orange blossom yogurt with citrus and sesame
  • Prosecco Cocktail TBD

The kitchen is connected to a cafe and the Blue Bandana chocolate company. You can even ‘bootcamp’ it and take their chocolate bar making in the afternoon. My cousin Sarah runs the cafe and cooking school and is a huge proponent of the local Vermont food scene. I can’t wait! Sign up HERE!

Grilled Steak Salad with Avocado and Jalapeno-Lime Vinaigrette

steak salad The first day of summer always gives me a feeling of resolution. Like that January 1st feeling, except much warmer. This, this will be the summer I (insert best intention here…go to the beach more, take that trip, eat more ice cream for goodness sake!) As an adult, June, July and August no longer means summer vacation, unless you’re a teacher. We have to make the effort to carve out summer signifiers. On my list this year? This year, I want more ssand between my toes, spontaneous trips and actually making it to some ‘yoga in the park’ classes around the city. Of course, summer has it’s food milestones, as well. You HAVE to have at least one grilled burger, perfect corn on the cob and s’more, preferably in one meal, accompanied by lots of rosé. Living in the city, with no grill, fire pit, outdoor pizza oven or backyard to shuck corn, you get creative. All of the grilling classes I teach are done indoors on grill pans. The secret to mimicking that outdoor char-grilled flavor? A sprinkle of smoked salt. You’ll want to put it on everything. This salad starts with a perfectly seasoned and seared steak and gets better from there. The combination of pineapple, avocado and tangy, spicy dressing feels like you’re doing summer right. You could wrap everything up in grilled corn tortillas for a pretty tasty taco, as well. Just add sand, a s’more and that glass of rosé.

Grilled Steak Salad with Avocado and Jalapeno-Lime Vinaigrette Makes 2 entree-size salads Steak and Salad:

  • 8-12 ounces grass-fed flat iron steak (or your favorite cut)
  • Smoked salt, to taste
  • 1/4 fresh pineapple, cored and sliced into wedges
  • 1 bunch watercress, cleaned and tough stems removed
  • 4 cups arugula, baby or regular
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Pickled red onions (optional)
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper


  • Juice of 2 big limes
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard (I used a jalepeno mustard from Apple Ridge Farm – thanks Rebecca!)
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely minced
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive or grapeseed oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 400F. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron pan on medium-high heat. Pat dry the steak and season well on both sides with smoked salt and pepper. Sear the steak for about 3 minutes – you want some nice grill marks. Flip the steak and transfer the whole pan into the oven to continue to cook. You want an internal temp of about 135F for rare to medium-rare, check every few minutes with a thermometer. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let rest. Wipe out the pan. Heat the same grill pan used to cook the steak on medium heat. Place the pineapple on the grill and cook for a few minutes on each side until charred. Remove to the cutting board to cool. In a Mason jar, combine all the vinaigrette ingredients and shake to emulsify. Taste and add Kosher salt, pepper and more of any of the ingredients. You want a dressing with some punch – don’t be shy on the salt and lime juice. In a large bowl, toss watercress and arugula with as much vinaigrette as you like (you’ll have extra dressing). Season with Kosher salt and pepper. Divide onto bowls or plates. Slice the steak against the grain and slice the pineapple. Arrange on top of the lettuce and garnish with avocado and pickled red onion (if you want).

Cooking Class Calendar



Each month, I will update my class schedule at Sur La Table under the ‘Cooking Classes’ tab. I would love to see you there! The cooking school is located at 306 West 57th Street near 8th Avenue in Manhattan. For more details and how to sign up, click here. FYI the instructor name might be different than mine.


July 2014

Friday, 7/11 – Date Night: Hot off the Grill

Monday, 7/14 – Secrets of Great Grilled Seafood

Thursday, 7/17 – Girls Night Out: Summer Entertaining

Saturday, 7/19 – Date Night: Hot off the Grill (2 classes!)

Wednesday, 7/23 – Summer Fiesta

Friday, 7/25 – Date Night: Summer in Tuscany

Saturday, 7/26 – Knife Skills & Date Day: Summer Chef’s Table

Monday 7/26 – Friday 8/1 – Science in the Kitchen for Teens Camp






Baba Ganoush!

I love all things eggplant. Especially when it’s made into the creamy, smoky Middle Eastern dip baba ganoush. I mean, it’s even fun to say. I recently teamed up with my pal Joel, where he showed me a completely ingenious way to make it. I think this would be perfect to make on a camping glamping trip or for any summertime BBQ. If you’ve ever wondered how to ‘impregnate’ a vegetable with garlic, now you will know…




Kitchen Wasteland Videos

A few years ago, I found myself knee-deep in the world of cooking videos. A well-timed email led to a position working behind the scenes at SeeFood Media, a multi-kitchen studio located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. While most people are familiar with the 30-minute cooking shows on Food Network, there’s a whole world of cooking videos gaining momentum on the web. One of my favorite projects was even nominated for James Beard Media Award!

Now that I teach cooking classes, stepping out in front of the camera has started to allure me a bit. My pal Joel has a cooking show and invited me on recently to shoot two shows. Here’s the first one!

Crispy Bacon Fried Cauliflower ‘Rice’


Before you think I’ve turned Paleo, hear me out. I like rice, I really do. It’s essential for making risotto and all of the puddings at that Rice to Riches place in Soho. I’m pretty sure it’s the most commonly eaten food in the world. I don’t know. But sometimes, it’s good to mix it up. When you grate or pulse cauliflower in a food processor, it makes it…rice-like. It kind of blew my mind.

I’ve been teaching quite a few classes in Asian cuisine at work. It’s a nice break from Date Night Italian Cafe Romance (not a real class, but close).  There’s something admirable about showing up for a cooking class to learn how to make, say, Korean beef bulgogi, when just about every New Yorker has a #1 Asian Kitchen menu at their fingertips ready for delivery. Nothing makes me more happy than inspiring people to break their Seamless addiction. My job is funny sometimes.

This rendition on classic friend rice has two change-ups: that cauliflower ‘rice’ I mentioned and BACON. Yeah, bacon’s good. It’s played out, but whatever. It belongs in this fried rice. Everything else is pretty much business as normal. So if you HAVE to have rice, just sub in a few cups (leftover works best) for the cauliflower.

Kind of makes me reconsider Paleo. Except not.


Crispy Bacon Fried Cauliflower ‘Rice’

Makes 2 main course servings

  • 2 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, diced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts divided
  • 1″ piece ginger, peeled minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large head cauliflower, thick stem removed, grated or pulsed*
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari (or more, to taste)
  • 1 large organic egg, beaten
  • Sesame oil, for garnish
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Sriracha, for garnish (optional)

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and render, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon onto a paper towel to drain, leaving the bacon fat in the skillet. Add white bits of scallion and ginger and saute, stirring occasionally, until scallion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add carrot and saute a few minutes more. Add ginger and saute for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the cauliflower ‘rice’ and increase heat to high. Cook cauliflower, stirring occasionally until tender and a bit crispy, about 5-10 minutes. You may add a swirl of oil (such as grapeseed or coconut) if it starts to get dry. You want some crispy bits of cauliflower.

Stir in peas and tamari. Add egg and stir vigorously to scramble the egg. Taste and add more tamari if you’d like. Serve hot topped with crispy bacon, sesame oil, sesame seeds and green scallion. And sriracha. Always sriracha

*Making cauliflower rice is easy. Pull out your big food processor and pulse the florets until small and rice-like. Or, go old school and grate it on the medium holes of a box grater. Either works.

Winter Kale Salad

I take no credit for the invention of this salad. My aunt, always up with trends, created this after tasting it at a restaurant in Nashville. A few tweaks later and there it was: the Perfect Kale Salad. Crunchy kale, crisp napa cabbage, cilantro, lots of citrus, almonds and dried cranberries for texture. Yep, sounds pretty perfect to me. I love the original version with said nuts and fruits, but I recently made an adaptation with sunflower seeds and pomegranate seeds, because…that’s what I had in the house. This tasted good alongside our butter-beef-cheese-laden Christmas dinner as well as a virtuous lunch after the fact.

This is the type of salad you can make in advance, as kale can standup to dressing, only getting better after a couple nights in the fridge. A couple tips: make sure your kale and napa are very finely chopped. Think shredded. You may shred the greens in a food processor, pulsing a few times (not too much, we don’t want pesto). It’s always good to have a few extra lemons lying around when you make salads; sometimes a squeeze is all you need to perk things up (ditto with salt and olive oil, don’t be afraid to season!)

I imagine avocado would be a delightful addition, as well as some sort of lean protein for all you Resolutioners.


Winter Kale Salad

Makes 1 large salad, enough for about 4-8 servings (depending on how much you like it)

  • 1 bunch kale, destemmed and  finely chopped
  • 1/2 large bunch napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 large bunch cilantro, minced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup nuts or seeds (such as toasted sliced almonds and/or sunflower seeds)
  • 1/3 cup dried or fresh fruit (such as dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


In a large bowl combine kale, napa, cilantro and scallions. In a small bowl, whisk together orange and lemon zest and juice. Drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, adding more olive oil or citrus juice to balance it out. Toss with kale mixture. Fold in nuts and fruit. Taste and season one last time. Eat immediately or chill for a few hours to soften the kale. Can be made a few days in advance – only toss with half the dressing and add remaining just before eating.


Creamy Zucchini Tarragon Soup


This is the sort of soup you make now. We have a few weeks of good zucchini left and as the nights cool down, this soup is just the thing. Contrary to the latte menu at Starbucks, it’s not pumpkin spice time, my friends. Nature will still give us ripe tomatoes, juicy peaches and corn for a few more weeks. We must persevere and hold tight to summer.

This is a good soup to make when you have a bunch of zucchini looking a bit worse for wear in your fridge. I tend to go crazy at the Greenmarket, scooping up all the wonderful heirloom summer squash and zucchini. Like their winter butternut cousins, this soup blends up surprisingly rich and creamy.

So we may not be allowed to wear white after Labor Day, we can sure eat like it’s still summer.

Creamy Zucchini Tarragon Soup

Adapted from Relish

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 medium zucchini (and/or summer squash) chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with a good 3-fingered pinch of salt. Add garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add zucchini and tarragon and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are completely soft.

Transfer soup to a blender, and with a towel over the lid, puree until smooth.  You may need to do this in batches. You can use an immersion blender, but I recommend a blender for the smoothest soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot or chilled.

Serve with tarragon leaves for garnish and perhaps a drizzle of olive oil.