A return to fall flavors: Try out these warmly spiced recipes

Mujadara is a classic Middle Eastern dish and, while nobody can agree on a spelling, everyone can agree it’s delicious.

A classic linzer torte (photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
A classic linzer torte
(photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
After a long, hot Middle Eastern summer, there is finally a chill in the air. And shouldn’t that turn of seasons be reflected in how we eat? Dinner should be dictated not just by the produce and ingredients now available, but also by the changing weather: Salads take advantage of summer’s bounty, but also keep the oven off and ensure a light meal on a hot summer day. But when the weather cools, we want heartier, comforting and filling dishes to warm us from the inside out.
These three recipes are perfect for the fall and winter months and will perfectly grace your holiday or weekday table.
The stuffed squash is a meal in and of itself – the perfect way to get your veggies and protein all in one place. The presentation is beautiful for a special occasion, yet it is easy enough to make during the week. I mix the beef filling with cabbage and onions, but you can switch out other vegetables (or ground chicken or turkey) to make the recipe your own.
Mujadara is a classic Middle Eastern dish and, while nobody can agree on a spelling, everyone can agree it’s delicious. It’s a staple at traditional Israeli and Arab restaurants and is the perfect stick-to-your-ribs dish for the winter months. The name mujadara comes from the Arabic word for smallpox, because of the resemblance of the lentils against the rice to the skin condition.
The real star of this dish, though, is the slow-caramelized onions, so don’t skimp on the time there; the longer you cook them, the more delicious they will be. The turmeric, allspice and cumin bring the dish to next-level deliciousness.
And, even when you’re full of rice, lentils and beef, there’s always room for dessert. You’ll certainly want to make room for this classic linzer torte, which provides a mouthful of flavor.
The ground hazelnuts and almonds bring textural and nutty elements to the dough, the cinnamon and ground cloves provide depth and the citrus packs a real punch. Store-bought jam works nicely and you can obviously also use homemade; I’ve even made the recipe with lemon curd instead. It’s a dish that is both beautiful and delicious – and is a memorable finish to any meal.
1¼ cups green or brown lentils
4 white or yellow onions
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1½ tsp. ground allspice
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1½ cups water
Place the lentils in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes (they will not be fully cooked at this point). Drain the lentils and set aside.
While the lentils are cooking, peel and slice the onions thinly. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions, stirring well to coat. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until browned and caramelized.
Transfer the onions to a bowl or plate and wipe the pan clean. Add the rice, olive oil and remaining ingredients, except for water, and stir to mix. Toast over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the water and reserved lentils and stir to mix. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Stir in the onions and serve.
Classic Linzer Torte
¾ cup (150 gr.) sugar
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
170 gr. butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 egg 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1¹⁄3 cups (167 gr.) all-purpose flour
30 gr. ground hazelnuts (about ¼ cup)
45 gr. ground almonds (about ¹⁄3 cup)
1¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups raspberry jam
Mix the citrus zests and the sugar together until moistened, and let it sit for five minutes. Then beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour, ground nuts, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder and salt and mix until all the ingredients are well combined and no streaks of flour remain.
Split the dough into two portions – one slightly bigger than the other, about 60% of the mixture. Wrap the larger portion in plastic wrap and freeze for 20 to 30 minutes. Place the remaining mixture – the smaller portion – at room temperature and place into a piping bag fitting with a medium-sized piping tip.
Press the larger piece of dough into a 23- or 25-cm. tart pan, covering the bottom and sides. Return the shell to the freezer for 20 minutes.
Then spread the jam evenly in to the shell. Using the remaining dough, pipe lines across the pie vertically and horizontally.
Bake the torte on 175º for 40 to 45 minutes until nicely browned. Store loosely covered at room temperature; best eaten within 2 to 3 days. Lightly dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Stuffed acorn squash
2 medium acorn squashes, about a kilo each
½ kg. ground beef
1 cup shredded white cabbage
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Halve the squashes, and scoop out the seeds and the stringy pulp inside both. Rub the flesh of the four squash halves with some olive oil and salt, and place them face down in a shallow baking dish. Pour about a centimeter of water into the bottom of the pan.
Bake the squash at 190º for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the flesh is easy to pierce with a fork.
While the squashes are baking, sauté the onion and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the shredded cabbage and cook until tender, stirring regularly, for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, saute the ground beef until brown and cooked through completely. Stir the beef into the vegetables. Season with soy sauce, sesame oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the squash from the oven and let cool five to 10 minutes. Pour the water out of the baking dish and turn the squash right-side-up to form little bowls. Season with a little salt and pepper. Pack the squash with the filling and return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.