Do you ever go out to a restaurant, order something that looks good, like it so much you want to make it at home and realize you already have everything you need?  It’s as if your body must have really needed those nutrients to have been attracted to them in both places.  Oh, that doesn’t happen to you?

Me neither.

Or not exactly.


A while back I ordered a lentil and kabocha salad and liked it so much that I wanted to make it again.  The squash was spiced and roasted and I loved the lentils in a salad – they were almost al dente, so they created a nice contrast to the soft squash and even their normal soft(er) presentation.

But what had me really coming back for more was the ricotta salata.

In the summers I love to make a zucchini and summer squash spaghetti with lots of lemon, mint and basil and top it with a mound of ricotta salata, but I don’t use it too much in the winter.  I think that may have been what sealed the deal for me on this dish, as (at least in my head) it made the whole salad a perfect representation of the departing winter and upcoming warmth.


Back at home, I did have lentils and a squash on hand, so it was basically meant to be, and we can just ignore the fact that I always have lentils and squash is pretty common around here during the fall and winter.  I even had the mint – which is not a given in months with an “r.”

The only thing I needed to run out for was the ricotta salata.

So this counts for my threory, right?


To pull it all together, I found a recipe on epicurious.com for a spiced pumpkin, lentil and goat cheese salad and figured that would be the perfect starting point.

Just change out the pumpkin for the acorn squash I had (and any winter squash would work here) and the goat cheese for the ricotta salata (of course!) and were were just about there.  I used spinach because it was what was in the fridge, but think arugula would be better – it was in both the restaurant and Bon Appétit version.

We had this as a late weekend lunch but I think it would be perfect any time.

Have you had serendipitous home/restaurant meals? And more importantly, what do you like for these ‘tween seasons?



Lentil and Spiced Squash Salad
inspired by Spiced Pumpkin, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad, Bon Appetit | October 2009

NOTE:  When I made this, my brain may have been ½ off, as I forgot to put the spice mixture on the squash until it was already in the oven, and I left out the pumpkin seeds from the restaurant version completely, although I did have some in my pantry… I can only imagine it would be that much better when made with a full brain.

Regarding the squash, you can use sugar pumpkin, butternut squash, kabocha, acorn – what ever you like. And I realize that they have varying weights, but it really doesn’t matter here – it is a loosely composed salad.  Just use however much of whatever you like.  How’s that for instrustions.  Also, you may notice that the salad calls for 1″ pieces and I roasted the squash in half-moons and then cut it into cubes later – again, you can credit that to the half-brain.  I have no answers.

¾ c. French green lentils
1 clove garlic, peeled but left whole
1 winter squash, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. hot smoked Spanish paprika**
½ teaspoon sea salt
4 c. baby arugula (or spinach)
¼ c. thinly sliced mint leaves
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. lemon juice (juice from about ½ lemon)
¾ c. (plus) ricotta salata, grated
½ c. toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Place lentils in small bowl. Cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes; drain.

Cook lentils in boiling salted water with peeled whole garlic clove until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils. Rinse under cold water, then drain.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Place squash in large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika, and sea salt. Arrange spiced squash in single layer on baking sheet; roast 20 minutes. Turn squash over and roast until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  (You can let it cool a bit, or serve warm – note if you do, it will wilt the greens).

Combine lentils, squash, and oil from baking sheet with mint, vinegar, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon oil. Once thoroughly dressed, gently toss with arugula and season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates; sprinkle with ricotta salata – and feel free to add more if you are anything like me.

** Sometimes labeled Pimentón Picante or Pimentó de La Vera Picante; available at specialty foods stores and at tienda.com or kalustyans.com.