Before Big Sweater Season ~ Jeweled Butternut Couscous Salad
Thanksgiving really takes care of itself, doesn’t it? The meal itself is so steeped in tradition that you’re not really changing much, are you? Maybe you’ll have roasted Brussels sprouts this year instead of green beans. Maybe you’ll make apple pie in addition to pumpkin, but fundamentally, it’s the meal you grew up with. The point is, you know what you’re making or eating for Thanksgiving. The question is, what will you eat between now and then?
We have a week and a half of desk lunches to face before Thanksgiving fires the official starting gun for BS2 — that’s “Big Sweater Season.” Before you let it all go until January, have a look at this jeweled butternut couscous salad.
Another roasted butternut salad? Yes, you’ve seen a butternut quinoa version on these very pages. My chief complaint with couscous salads is that so often they’re bland. Where this one takes an interesting turn is in the layering of flavors. A couple of extra steps take this salad from ho-hum to oh-my, infusing it with the flavors of fall. So this is where I ask you not to skip browning up the onions, really browning them. The reward is a sweet earthiness then combined with cinnamon, a fresh kick of mint and parsley, followed by the sweet tart of dried sour cherries offset by the tang of pomegranate. Ottolenghi-inspired, this salad comes from an unexpected place — a mashup of two facing pages in an old copy of the first Ottolenghi Cookbook. You never know where inspiration will come from. Any which way, this salad is best served with the chill taken off. It’s a perfect candidate for a #NotSadDeskLunch (thanks, Food52).
- 1 c. whole wheat couscous
- 1 c. chicken broth
- 1 3 lb. butternut squash, cut into ¾ in. cubes
- ¼ c. olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, sliced into rings
- ½ c. dried tart cherries
- 3 T. Italian parsley, chopped
- 3 T. fresh mint, chopped
- ½ t. ground cinnamon
- 1 lemon, juiced & rind grated
- 3 T. pomegranate arils
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400F. Toss the butternut squash in a large bowl with 1 T. olive oil until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the squash on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn gently and roast for another 10-15 minutes until a knife slides easily into the squash. Let cool.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 T. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until well browned, about 10 minutes, turning frequently.
- Put the couscous into a medium bowl. Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat. Pour the stock over the couscous. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the cinnamon, lemon juice and rind and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in onion, roasted squash and dried cherries. Add parsley and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the salad into a serving dish or bowl and garnish with pomegranate arils.