Roasted Acorn and Delicata Squash, Lentils, Merguez and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Okay, so the name of this dish doesn’t exactly roll off of the tongue and, yes, there are a lot of elements going on here. But no single part is that difficult, most can be made in advance and the individual pieces can be used in other combinations. In fact, this recipe is something that I took bits and pieces from one recipe that was somewhat underwhelming as a whole but had a few nice elements. The spiced pumpkin seeds are so addictive that I advise you to double the recipe and set some aside for nibbling or you won’t have any when it comes time to serve! They are marvelous as a nosh with a drink. And if you want to keep this vegetarian, lose the merguez sausage and cook up some brown rice, wheat berries or farro to add to the lentils.

Roasted Acorn and Delicata Squash, Lentils, Merguez and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds adapted from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin


Yield: 4 to 6 servings


For the spiced pumpkin seeds

1 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds

4 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

For the roasted squash

1 medium butternut squash, skin on, halved, seeded and sliced into 1/3 inch slices. Bigger pieces can be halved again.

1 medium delicata squash, skin on, halved, seeded (I like to use a melon baller for removing the seeds) and sliced into 1/3 inch slices

2 Tablespoons EVOO

Kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

For the lentils

2 cups of green lentils or lentils du puy

2 Tablespoons chopped red onion or shallot

a large handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and Aleppo or fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

For the dressing

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 Tablespoons Apple Cider or white wine vinegar

scant 1/2 cup EVOO

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo or fresh cracked black pepper

Generous 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoon sugar, preferably raw or Demerara

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 inch strip of anchovy paste, optional


Crumbled feta or goat cheese (or if you are being a bit decadent, a round of marinated Cabecou such as one by Laura Chenel)


  1. Mix all of the ingredients for the dressing and set aside in a glass bottle or covered measuring cup. I like for the flavors to meld.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Mix the pumpkin seeds with the lime juice, cayenne pepper and salt and spread on the parchment. Toast for 12 minutes. Stir the seeds and continue toasting for 12 minutes more. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Any left-over seeds will keep up to 3 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge or up to a week in a cool room. I dare you to have any last that long! img_2424
  3. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Line 2 rimmed baking pans with parchment and in a single layer, place the delicata squash on one pan and the butternut squash on the other. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper and EVOO and toss. Roast for 30 minutes and then flip the squash pieces and rotate the pans. Roast until brown, about another 10 minutes more for the delicata squash and up to 20 minutes more for the butternut squash.
  4. Rinse and drain your lentils. Bring them to a boil in water to cover by 2 inches, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 23 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the type of lentil you are using. I am using a de puy lentil because it keeps it shape well when cooked and is wonderfully aromatic. You want the lentil to be tender, but still holding its shape. Drain them and toss while warm with about 6 tablespoons of the dressing. You want it well-dressed, but not drowned. Add 2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion or shallot and a large handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley. Even though the dressing has salt and pepper, I always add a bit more to the lentils directly.
  5. Slice the merguez (or other sausage) on the diagonal and brown, cooking through in a frying pan. I then add the sausage to the lentils and mix through, but you can keep them separate if you prefer. I’m not big on dictates. img_2440

I like to serve the lentils and merguez slightly warm and everything else at room temperature. img_2434This can be assembled over a bed of arugula that has been tossed with some of the dressing. I would layer the dressed arugula first, then add the lentil/merguez mixture, some of the roasted squashes, a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and crumbled goat cheese. I plan on serving this with a nice Truett Hurst Red Field Blend red wine and some crusty bread. Any leftovers (other than arugula with dressing) can be used on their own or in combination. I have been known to put roasted squash into sandwiches and over pasta and the lentils and sausage would be wonderful with eggs.

Green Beans!

green beans and tomatoesGrowing up I watched the old tv show, The Waltons, and was imediately taken by Livvy sitting at the large kitchen table or Grandma, sitting on the porch trimming fresh green beans and talking about whatever was on their minds. As it was supposed to, it evoked a sense of home, family and warmth that we all wanted to replicate. While my childhood was a time of the “miracle” of frozen vegetables, I remember nagging my mother until she bought fresh green beans in season. I have never looked back and will only buy fresh green beans whether at the grocery store or at the farmer’s market. To this day, one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take a crisp, fresh green bean and to snap off the stem end.

These green beans are easy to make and can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature. A pound should feed 4 people, but my husband and I finished them off ourselves.

Green Beans

Yield: 4 servings


1 pound crisp, fresh green beans

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 rounded teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 to 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (or sea salt)

cracked black pepper (about 10 grinds)

2 teaspoons EVOO


  1. Trim the green beans by snapping off the stem end. If they are fresh, they will snap cleanly.
  2. Place the beans in a pot of water to just cover them and cover the pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Immediately rinse the beans in very cold water or plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and to retain the bright green color. As soon as they have cooled off, place the beans in a dish towel and wrap them to dry.
  3. In the now dry pot that you cooked the green beans in (I have a wonderful oval pan from Rachael Ray that is a favorite for so many things, including cooking green beans) add the EVOO, the garlic, salt, pepper and the dried beans. Turn the heat to high, add the tomatoes and just gently toss for about 2-3 minutes – just to heat through and until the tomatoes barely begin to soften. I dare you to not start stealing beans before they ever make it to the serving bowl!


Roasted Asparagus and Bell Peppers

I love baking some fresh fish for dinner and am always trying to mix up the sides that I serve it with.  Recently I bought a bunch of asparagus but then after adding dill and almonds thought, this is kind of something I do all the time.


While rooting around my produce drawer in the refrigerator, I happened to discover some bell peppers I’d nearly forgotten about that I had purchased recently at the farmer’s market.  I sliced it up, added it to the asparagus and boom!  Pretty and yummy appetizer of roasted vegetables.


I also had started to make something like a tzatziki when I realized that I was missing most of the ingredients, but then I ended up just discovering that a little bit of Greek yogurt, mixed with some lemon juice, salt and pepper results in a wonderful sauce that went well not only with these roasted vegetables, but also with the white fish that I ended up serving as the main meal.


For the Greek yogurt sauce

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Vegetables

  • One bunch asparagus
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 2  tbsp chopped dill
  • handful of sliced almonds
  • salt pepper to taste
  • EVOO
  • Lemon zest (optional)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Toss the asparagus and sliced bell peppers in olive oil and then spread on a sheet of foil covering a baking pan.
  3. Sprinkle the salt and pepper, dill and almonds over the veggies.
  4. Roast for about 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, for the sauce, mix the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper until thoroughly mixed together.
  6. To serve, spread some of the sauce on a plate, and then place the roasted vegetables on the sauce once they are cooked.  (Optional: add some lemon zest)

Heirloom Tomatoes and Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Vegetables with Fresh Herbs

So even though I may be planning for the holidays, we still have to eat everyday meals until then. I have some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini and Yukon Gold potatoes and fresh herbs in pots and when you have gorgeous vegetables (or fish) I always think it is a shame to hide these under sauces. I enjoy a good sauce as much as anyone, but let’s face it, sauces came about to make less than the best quality ingredients edible. When I have really fresh fish, I just want to grill it with a generous squeeze of lime, salt, pepper and a bit of EVOO. Well, I feel the same way about vegetables and grilling them with some EVOO is the best way to bring out that wonderful flavor when they are at the height of the growing season. You can do this on an outdoor grill or you can buy a simple non-stick grilling pan like I have and do it right on your range. There is no recipe. Simply slice your vegetables in a way that looks nice and so the slices are between a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Drizzle them generously (but don’t drown them) with olive oil, sprinkle on some Kosher salt or sea salt and a bit of cracked pepper. Put them in the hot grill pan which has also been drizzled with olive oil and cook them for a few minutes on each side, watching them until they take on some nice grill marks. Adjust your heat as necessary so they don’t burn. Take them off the grill pan when they are finished and generously sprinkle them with whatever herbs you  have on hand and happen to like, Tonight, mine have some lemon thyme, oregano, French lavender and flat-leaf parsley.

Once they are ready, you can serve them over pasta or rice and leftovers are wonderful in sandwiches, especially with some goat cheese. But tonight, they will be served with crusty bread, drizzled with a Sciabica flavored olive oil (thank you, Frances, for introducing me to this wonderful source for olive oils and vinegars!) and thick slices of heirloom tomatoes with nothing but a good sprinkling of Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. If you are not a vegan, a slice of fresh mozzarella wouldn’t go amiss.   Heirloom tomatoes

Savory Galette with Eggplant, Zucchini and Feta

Savory Galette platedOnce you learn certain basic techniques, then you can feel free to experiment. I had so much fun making the tomato and plum galette that I thought I would see what other great combinations I could make. The farmers’ market today had beautiful zucchini and eggplants eggplant and zucchiniand my lemon thyme and oregano plants are quite lush and could do with a bit of judicious trimming. I debated about the cheese, but when I remembered that I still had half of a nice chunk of feta in my fridge, leftover from the green fattoush salad, my decision was made. And here is the delicious result:

Savory Galette with Eggplant, Zucchini and Feta


For the crust

1.25 cups, unbleached all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (if you have it, use lemon thyme)

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold

2 Tablespoons Greek Yogurt (I used Fage 2% Plain)

5 Tablespoons ice water

For the filling

3 cups thinly sliced zucchini and eggplant (See Note)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

cracked black pepper

1 large garlic clove, minced or crushed

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


2-3 Tablespoons of goat or sheep’s milk feta in a chunk

egg, lightly beaten

1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, basil or oregano leaves

NOTE: (Since I went to the farmers’ market, I was able to get a variety of different colored zucchini and eggplants. If you are using the large, traditional purple eggplant and it has a lot of seeds, you will need to generously salt the slices and lay them out in a colander for about 20 minutes. This removes the bitterness from the seeds. Then rinse them well before using and pat dry. Since I bought eggplants with very few seeds, this step was not necessary. Do not buy the gigantic zucchini. More isn’t always better- it’s just more. Look for slim, straight zucchini with unblemished skins.)


  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, black pepper, thyme and sea salt. Pulse a few times to mix well. Add cold butter (divide the stick into 16 pieces). Pulse until the mixture is the size of frozen peas.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and ice water until well combined. Pour it over the flour mixture and run the machine just until the dough starts to form a ball. Add the pine nuts and pulse once or twice to distribute. It will seem relatively wet compared to other pastry. Don’t worry! Turn it out onto waxed paper or plastic wrap and form a disk. (Make a ball and then flatten it.) Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for at least one hour. This can be made a couple of days ahead if you like.
  3. When ready to bake the galette, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Have a rimmed baking pan ready to use. Remove the dough from the fridge.
  4. Thinly slice the eggplant and zucchini. A mandolin is great for this task, but PUHLEEZE be careful! It is so easy to cut yourself badly. Don’t worry if the slices aren’t all gorgeous rounds – it won’t make any difference to the end product.
  5. Roll out your dough on lightly floured parchment paper to an approximately 14-inch round. Perfect roundness is not essential. However, do try to have even thickness of the dough. Turn the dough disk periodically while rolling out to keep it from sticking and to maintain the thickness.
  6. About 2 inches in from the edge, lightly spread the garlic. Then start layering your vegetables, building towards the center. This is not a Chicago deep-dish pizza. You do not load up the dough with as much stuff as you possibly can. Sprinkle with salt, a few cracks of pepper, the dried thyme and a drizzle of EVOO.               Savory Galette Stage 1
  7. Fold up the edges of the dough and just barely tuck them under to give a rounded look. If you prefer something even more rustic, then just fold the edges up over the vegetables. If the you have to create small folds in the dough, that’s just fine.
  8. Brush the edges of the dough with a lightly beaten egg.           Savory Galette Stage 2
  9. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F, add the feta cheese and bake for 25 minutes.
  10. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top and bake for 5-8 more minutes or until everything is golden. Remove to a cooling rack and after it has cooled for a bit then take your fresh herbs and scatter them across the top. If you do it immediately, the herbs will blacken from the heat. Serve with a fresh salad and a nice crisp white or rose wine.

TIP: You will almost certainly have left-over vegetables and you don’t want to waste them, especially if you have lugged them home from the farmers market. These are the perfect left-overs to make a ratatouille – assuming you didn’t thinly slice more than you needed and simply left the remaining vegetables whole. Watch for my wonderful ratatouille recipe!

Finished Savory Galette

Farmer’s Market Bounty

market pickles   market herbsmarket mushrooms

One of the many nice things about summer in Chicago is the Farmer’s Market. I live and work downtown and there is a market on both Tuesdays and Thursdays near my office. It’s not as spectacular as some markets, but there is always a lot of hustle and bustle. The difficult part for me is to remember that I actually have to carry home what I buy, which means walking or the “L.” I sometimes get carried away….

After purchasing gorgeous strawberries, asparagus, kohlrabi and arugula, I knew that I had to do them justice. Farmer's bounty

The lemon thyme and basil plants are from a previous farmer’s market visit. We’ll see how long it takes me to kill them!

I had bought some Copper River Sockeye Salmon the day before and decided to simply bake the fish with fresh lime juice, Kosher salt, cracked pepper, paprika a few Panko crumbs on top and a drizzle of EVOO. If the fish is good – and really, why buy it if it isn’t? – I like to keep the cooking simple to taste the fish. I prepared my asparagus by lightly peeling and trimming the stalks. I made bundles of 4 asparagus each and wrapped them in a slice of speck (prosciutto works just as well). I then sprinkled Kosher salt, a few cracks of black pepper and a good drizzle of EVOO. roasted asparagus

I roasted them at 420 degrees F for about 18 minutes.

I then prepared my kohlrabi. I had three kohlrabi in my bunch. Try to pick the bulbs so they are not too ginormous and not too tiny. Like Goldilocks – just right.

I just peel them, thinly slice them (I used a knife but you can use a mandolin. Just be careful! I bare many mandolin scars. I squeezed the juice of two limes (or lemons would work) over the slices, generously sprinkled cumin, Kosher salt and cracked pepper. I then added 1 tsp. of crushed garlic, sprinkled some Hungarian sweet paprika and a good drizzling of Meyer lemon EVOO on top. (A good quality regular EVOO is just fine. I mixed the pieces of kohlrabi with the dressing and let it sit while dinner cooked. On to the freekeh. I love that name!

Freekeh is  a cereal food made from green wheat and is big in Middle Eastern cuisine. I buy mine from, which is a fabulous source for nuts, dried fruit, spices and all kinds of treats. It’s family-owned, they couldn’t be nicer and they have the funniest shipping boxes I have ever seen.

I Googled how to cook the freekeh which is pretty easy. You lightly toast it in a dry pan to release the aroma of the wheat. Then add 2 cups of water to one cup of freekeh and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring this to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the water is almost gone. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and cover the pot with a clean dishtowel and replace the lid for 10 minutes to steam the grain. Remove the lid and let sit for another 8-10 minutes. Then it’s up to you. You can herb it up, add garlic, fresh scallions or shallots, lemon juice and it hot or you can let it cool and throw in some chopped tomatoes, mint and parsley. Leftovers (assuming you have any) are great with diced grilled or roasted chicken or shrimp. Get creative. You can do pretty much the same things with faro – another great grain.

So my fish and asparagus were ready and I dished everything out and served it with a Truett Hurst 2013 Zinfandel Rose. Frances and Matthew introduced us to this wonderful winery on one of our trips together and everything is good, but their Zins are great!

And here’s dinner. Not bad for a Tuesday!

salmon dinner3         salmon dinner2