July 7, 2010

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pine Nuts & Raisins

A hearty vegetarian dish with big flavor. 

It's ready in less than 20 minutes and is both pretty to look at and delicious to eat. Savory roasted butternut squash, toasted pine nuts, and browned onions are combined with sweet bursts of juicy raisins, chopped figs, and aromatic cinnamon and cardamom. 

It was 104 degrees here last night, and I was determined not to light the oven to roast my butternut squash. So I placed each hunk of squash down in the stove top grill pan and let it work its magic.

I tossed all of the above ingredients together with boiled Israeli couscous. A big bowl of this is all you need for dinner. Its bright colors and deep flavors engage all of the senses.

A treat to eat, yet fast and inexpensive. It would also be a fabulous side to a grilled lamb chop, or even served cold or at room temperature as a salad.

Israeli Couscous with Butternut Squash:
3/4 pound butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice. In this case, I had already peeled and seeded it, which saved time. You can also use a bag of defrosted, pre-cut frozen butternut squash.
1 T. salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup Israeli couscous or acini di pepe (tiny peppercorn-shaped pasta), about 1 pound, cooking water reserved
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick (optional)
1/8 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup raisins (golden or regular)
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 t. freshly ground cardamom
2 T. fresh squeezed lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil and salt to taste and spread in 1 layer on a grill pan over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes or until squash is just tender, turning every 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. 
Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat. Add to the large bowl. 
Cook onion in 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to turn golden. Add the raisins to the pan and stir to warm through. Add to the bowl with the squash and pine nuts.
Cook couscous with cinnamon stick in a large pot of boiling salted water 10 minutes, or until just tender, and scoop out of the water with a fine meshed colander (do not rinse). Add couscous to vegetables and toss with 2 tablespoon oil to coat. Add the lemon juice, parsley, nuts, raisins, ground cinnamon, cardamom, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to mix well.

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