Lentils with Roasted Squash and Dried Cranberries


It’s all turkey talk when it comes to Thanksgiving.

But really – it’s the side dishes that everyone stresses about, right?

What to serve with the turkey.

Back in the day my Mom served the same menu every year: candied sweet potatoes (fabulous but with more sugar than I can even imagine using now!); baked cranberries (spiked with brandy); a green vegetable of some sort; her famous “filling” made with barley-shaped pasta, mushrooms, onions and celery.

I like to mix it up every year, although I stick to tradition too. So we always have some sort of sweet potato dish (sometimes – yes --- with marshmallow, sometimes not); the same baked cranberries my Mom made; lots of vegetables; and stuffing (the kids got tired of Nana’s “filling”).

We also have a vegetarian entrée, usually mujadarah or koshary. And I must be aware of allergies, so, no nuts in the stuffing, plus I try to make an additional vegetarian stuffing.

This year I am serving this lentil side dish also. It’s sort of like a salad but also like a casserole. And it can be made ahead. It’s a beautiful dish, filled with colorful, seasonal ingredients. It’s vegetarian. It’s a side-dish. It’s nut-free.


Lentils with Roasted Squash, Spinach and Cranberries

  • 2 cups diced winter squash (such as butternut)
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup green French lentils
  • 3 cups water, lightly salted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons orange juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the squash and shallot on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour one tablespoon of the olive oil over the vegetables, toss and bake for about 20 minutes, tossing the vegetables occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside. While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils and place them in a bowl. Stir in the vegetables, cranberries and parsley. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss the ingredients. Add orange juice, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss the ingredients. Add more orange juice if needed for moisture.

Makes 6 servings

Koshary - Street Food

Why is it that "street food" and "food truck food" are always so intriguing?

Take shwarma, for instance, which I first tasted in Jerusalem many years ago. I absolutely couldn't resist, especially after my daughter Meredith, who had been living in Israel for several months, told me that I would fall in love with this particular dish.

I did. I can still remember that first awesome bite.

I am not tempted by all street food of course. I would never, never try one of those greasy-looking hot dogs that sit in cloudy water with those awful fat globules floating on top. 

But when we traveled to Egypt I was fascinated by this wonderful looking/aromatic dish called koshary. Fortunately Ed and I were on a Nile cruise ship and, just our luck! the chef knew how to make it. 

Lucky us. He prepared the dish for lunch one day and also told me the basic ingredients, which I have worked with several times to try to make koshary that tasted the way we like it.

That's it in the photo. This is a dish that takes some time and has several parts (unlike most of my recipes). But it is worth the effort. 

Koshary! Street food. Food truck food. Meatless Monday food. Vegetarian food. Filling. Fabulous, even when it's reheated.




Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 28 ounce can Italian style tomatoes, including liquid, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook briefly. Add the cinnamon stick and cook briefly. Add the tomatoes, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until thick. Remove the cinnamon stick, puree the ingredients (I use a hand blender) and set aside.


The Grains:

  • 6 ounces small pasta (elbows, farfalle, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup Basmati rice
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to warm (about 225 degrees). Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook the lentils in lightly salted water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside. Combine the rice with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 18-20 minutes. Remove from the heat but keep the cover on the pan to keep the rice warm. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over low-medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside in the oven to keep warm.


Final Assembly:

Reheat the tomato sauce. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the sauté pan used for the onions. Add the cooked macaroni and cook over medium heat without stirring, for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom is crispy. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes to crisp the pasta. Remove the pasta to a serving platter. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the sauté pan. Add the lentils and cook for 1-2 minutes or until lightly crispy. Spoon the lentils on top of the pasta. Top with the rice. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add the chickpeas and cook briefly to warm them. Spoon the chick peas over the rice. Spoon the tomato sauce on top. Top with the caramelized onions. 

Makes 8 servings

Bulgur Wheat Mujadarah


Has anyone else noticed that people may or may not eat a particular food depending on what it’s called?

I know there’s a lot written about this but I saw it for myself yesterday, when I had a party at my house and served buffet style. One of the dishes was Mujadarah (there are lots of ways to spell this Middle Eastern dish). Everyone seemed taken by its name and helped themselves to some, which was terrific because it turned out to be one of the favorites of the day and people came back for seconds and more and there wasn’t a morsel left for today. :(

Only a couple of people asked what it was and when I explained it is made with bulgur wheat and lentils they hesitated.

Just say Mujadarah and people will eat it. It is a special dish. Not only delicious, but easy to make and you can cook it a day or so ahead of a party. It is also a vegetarian dish that is fabulously nutritious (high protein and fiber).

I once read that Mujadarah is the dish that the biblical Esau found so tempting that he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowlful. Recipes for this so-called “Esau’s Pottage” abound. Some of them contain meat or meat stock or vegetables. My recipe is fairly plain and simple. I make the onions at least one day ahead because the thick, rich juices leech out of the caramelized onions after a few hours and I pour these into the cooked bulgur and lentils for extra flavor. 

Make extra. This stuff goes (at least when you call it by its proper name).


  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 3 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced

  • 3/4 cup lentils

  • 3 cups water or stock

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • salt to taste

Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions  and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the onions are soft and brown. Spoon the onions into a container and cover the container. Refrigerate when cool if not serving the dish immediately. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes. Add the bulgur wheat, stir, cover the pan and cook for another 5 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Let rest in the covered pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add the parsley and toss the ingredients. Add the cumin and salt to taste. If serving immediately, stir in the onions with any accumulated juices. If serving at a later time, stir in the onions and juices, cover the pan and reheat in a covered baking dish in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Makes 4 servings

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