Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lentils and Apples with Acorn Squash: A Fall Staple at Hillel

During the years I was cooking at Hillel for the UW students, I created hundreds of dinners for Shabbat and the holidays. Whenever we served chicken or beef for dinner, we always offered a vegetarian entrée alongside. One of my most requested vegetarian dishes for the fall months was sweet and sour lentils served in a bowl of steamed squash.

Now, I am a bit biased since I adore lentils – red, brown, green ... all of them. But I must say, this is a lovely lentil recipe. The sweet and sour flavor comes from adding honey or maple syrup and red wine vinegar. I include apples for more fall essence, but pears or quince would be nice, too. It’s certainly not a pretty dish – very brown – so you do need a sprig of something green to jazz it up. What it lacks in looks, though, it makes up for in taste.

I usually serve these lentils in acorn squash halves, but I’ve also spooned them over spaghetti squash. It’s tasty warm or room temperature, making it ideal to feed a crowd at a potluck (or some hungry college students!). And did I mention it’s inexpensive, freezes well, is vegan and can be gluten-free if you use tamari in place of the soy sauce? Whew, that’s a lot of virtues for one dish! Let the humble lentil shine!

Lentils and Apples with Acorn Squash
Lentils adapted from New Kosher Cuisine for All Seasons
By Ivy Feurerstadt and Melinda Strauss
Serves 4 as a main dish, or 8 as a side dish (cut into quarters)

1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/8 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
A dash of garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
1 apple, cored and diced
2 medium acorn squash, halved and seeds scraped out
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley for serving

In a medium sized saucepan, stir together the first nine ingredients. Add the lentils and mix well. Bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat down and let simmer for about an hour, stirring a few times and tossing the diced apple into the saucepan after the first 20 minutes. Check to see if the lentils are soft and the liquid has thickened. If too liquidy, let simmer uncovered near the end. The lentils should have the consistency of a thick sauce.

While the lentils are cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the 4 squash halves in a roasting dish (cut a small slice off the bottom of each if needed so they sit securely) and add about an inch of water to the pan. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Steam the squash until tender, about 30-45 minutes depending upon how large they are. Remove from oven and set aside until lentils are cooked.

Place the squash halves on a serving platter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the lentils into each half and top with a sprig of parsley.

If making ahead: Prepare the squash and lentils and keep separate. When close to serving, spoon the lentils into the squash and warm in the oven.


  1. This sounds really wonderful. And I'm jealous of your reddened leaves! For some reason, the leaves around here seem to be stuck in a yellow holding pattern. Maybe by November they'll change.

  2. @cheapbeets
    Thanks, Molly! You know, our leaves are slow in changing this fall, too. Normally I'm looking out at blazing red maples by now but the trees still have a lot of green leaves on them. These leaves pictured here are from one of our hydrangeas (which have usually lost their leaves by's all out of whack!). I hope you have some pretty foliage soon - there's nothing like autumn in New England!

  3. I am so impressed by this blog and your ideas. Thanks for sharing Hannah.
    -Andrea Early

  4. @andrea
    Hi Andrea - thank you so much! I'm having a lot of fun with the blog. I appreciate you checking it out! :)

  5. Such a great recipe!! I love the lentils presented in the acorn squash like that - I can see why this was one of your most requested dishes!! I also love lentils and these sound delicious. Adding them to my to make list!

  6. @katherinemartinelli
    Thank you, Katherine! I hope you enjoy the lentils!

  7. This looks super yummy! Lentils are and have always been my favorite bean. From dry to done in 20 minutes? Yes, Please!

  8. @B
    Thanks, B! Lentils are such a super food...protein, quick & easy, cheap, tasty - what more could we ask for?

  9. I love lentils! And acorn squash! This will be perfect for one of our (several) meatless days per week.

  10. I love lentils too, Mum's lentil soup is the best! And sweet & sour to boot...delicious.

  11. @Mairi
    Mmm, lentil soup is one of my very favorites. I love all the variations you can make, too!

  12. What a great idea. I made acorn squash bowls last night for swiss chard, quinoa and dried fruit, which was good but still needs a little work. I love lentils too and your recipe looks sooo interesting! I think I'll make these next!

    Thanks, Susan! I'm intrigued by your chard/quinoa/dried fruit filling. Definitely post the recipe when you finalize it! Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

  14. I baked this recipe. Right out of the oven, I wasn't quite sure about it. I "sort of" liked it. But the next day, I had another of the squash halves, and I really liked it -- somehow the flavors had mixed and matured in the fridge. Now, two days after preparation, I just had the last serving and -- wow! I'll make this again. (Hint: I like it best with a bit of margine melted into the filling just before eating.) I want to try it again, and maybe add raisins with the apple pieces; I can think of any number of variations. But the original is very good.

    1. Hi, thank you for letting me know! I'm delighted that you made the lentils, and even more so that you enjoyed them so much after some time to sort-of marinate. I'll keep that timing in mind the next time I make them. And I like your suggestion of raisins! I appreciate you taking the time to comment and hope you stop by again.

  15. This looks so good. Thanks for sharing this recipe.



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