Sunday, October 29, 2006

Butternut squash and chickpeas with cumin couscous

I found this delicious looking recipe in the latest issue of "Real Simple" - I know, it's not really a twenty-something magazine, but at least it's not Martha Stewart. Anyway, they suggest it as a side dish at Thanksgiving that is hearty enough to serve as a main dish for vegetarians. I'm not vegetarian but I do have a lot of veggie friends, and I tend to like Moroccan-inspired dishes, so I thought I'd give it a test run this weekend.

1 butternut squash (~2 lbs)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 c. canned diced tomatoes
1 x 32 oz. container vegetable broth
1 x 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
1/3 c. raisins (golden or dark)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 c. couscous
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. chopped almonds

Peel and halve the squash. Remove the seeds and cut into ~1 inch chunks. Dice the onion and chop the garlic. You may want to measure out the spices into a small mise en place bowl at this point to save some scrambling later. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or very large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and cook for one minute. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, chickpeas, raisins and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then uncover and cook 15-20 minutes until squash is tender and a lot of the liquid has boiled off.

After you've uncovered the squash mixture, boil 1 1/2 c. water with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. cumin. Stir in the couscous and remove from heat, let stand 5-10 minutes and fluff with a fork. Divide the couscous into individual portions (this recipe serves 6-8 people) and ladle the squash over the top. Sprinkle with parsley and almonds.

The verdict:
Very filling! I liked the flavors, which wasn't surprising, but the spices weren't nearly strong enough for my taste. I'd probably double them next time, and maybe leave out the parsley garnish entirely. The squash mixture came out really watery, which was kind of unfortunate since I'm sure a lot of the flavors wound up in the broth instead of on our plates. The dish needs a lot of liquid to cover the squash chunks and cook them properly, but it didn't boil off much. The only real fix I can think of is to cook the couscous in with the squash instead of cooking it separately, i.e., add the dry couscous once the squash is done cooking and let it absorb the liquid for ten minutes. Otherwise, though, thumbs up.

I'll probably come back and update this post if those changes help, but I might not be making it again for a while - the 6-8 servings are going to be providing me with lunch and dinner all week!

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