Tuesday, December 1, 2009

butternut squash with toasted couscous, cranberries and walnuts

With one half of the holidays over, I'm finding myself investing more and more time with the "what would they really love?" question and far less with, "what's for dinner?" I've also been away so much that catching the market on Saturdays has become harder and harder to do. (excuses, excuses...)

I had even let this one butternut squash sit in a basket on the counter for two weeks. Lucky for me, the squashes are resilient and long-lasting, and it in all probability would have made it through the entire winter. Nonetheless, for produce in my kitchen, two weeks is a long time. This recipe was an on-the-spot improvisation, inspired mostly by the new sage plant I'd picked up. I've often cooked this squash with sage, but it was always dried, and I was excited to try it fresh. This dish is really easy to throw together, and I lad all the ingredients on-hand. If you have a gluten allergy/intolerance, you can easily substitute any grain you prefer. (Same goes for the walnuts.)

butternut squash stuffed with toasted couscous, cranberries and walnuts

1 medium-sized butternut squash
1.5 c couscous (or one box)
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1.5 c vegetable broth
handful dried cranberries
1/4 - 1/2 c chopped, fresh parsley
7 - 10 leaves fresh sage
handful chopped walnuts

Slice the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and roast for about 30 minutes until just tender. While the squash is roasting, prepare the couscous.

In a medium-sized saucepan (with a lid), saute the onion and celery in some olive oil with a little salt and pepper. Add about half of the fresh parsley and stir. Add the dry couscous and toast for about 3 - 4 minutes, until it begins to brown. Add the vegetable broth, the cranberries and the rest of the parsley, and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat, stir, and cover until all the water is absorbed.

When the squash is tender, scoop out the flesh, leaving about a 1/4" wall. Add the scooped squash to a skillet with some oil, salt, pepper, and the sage. Saute over medium heat for a minute or two. Add the cooked couscous and stir well to combine. Turn the heat to high and let it cook for a few minutes while the flavors incorporate, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the mixture into the squash and finish in the broiler for about two minutes (watch carefully so it doesn't burn). Top with some fresh sage leaves and the chopped walnuts, and serve.

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