I decided to make couscous to use up the piece of butternut squash left over from Wednesday’s roasted butternut with balsamic drizzle.  We like couscous here, so I make it a lot.  Changing up the add ins keeps the side dish fresh and interesting.

Perfect vehicle maybe for the dreaded orange vegetable?

Never hurts to try, so I did.

While I was in Joppa Fine Foods in Newburyport picking up the hand-rolled Tunisian-style couscous I like to use, I ran into the shop’s owner, Abbie Batchelder.  I told her about my plan to find a way to eat and enjoy winter squashes.  We talked spices for a bit and she sold me on the idea of a hot curry and smoked paprika spice combination for infusing the couscous.  She thought it would be a good idea to add a bright note to the couscous somehow, a citrus to counterbalance the heat and the smoke of the spices, and I agreed.  In the absence of home preserved lemons (and no time to make them up quickly before dinner), I gave her citrus suggestion a quick but interesting twist.

Thanks for pointing me in the right directions, Abbie!

Fruit and nuts are a pretty standard addition to couscous, but the spinach was added on a whim, guided by my personal preference for including a favorite green.  I tossed in a couple of handfuls of the leaves at the end to steam.  Along with the lemon, spinach gave freshness to a couscous that might have been too heavy with spice.

My ratings will be posted when I wrap the squash experiment.

Couscous with Roasted Squash, Spinach, and Caramelized Lemon Slices

  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4 Tbsp. grapeseed oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1  tsp. hot curry
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 cup hand-rolled or Israeli pearl couscous
  • 2 1/2 cups good quality chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • two good handfuls of spinach leaves, whole if young or cut into ribbons if more mature
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lemon hand cut into thin slices

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add squash cubes.

Pan roast over medium heat until browned.  Continue cooking, lowering the heat if necessary, until it is cooked through and just tender.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Set the pan aside with out cleaning it for a second use.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large saute pan.  (Saute pan should be one with a tight-fitting lid.) Add the onion and sauté, stirring often, until onion is softened.  Add the curry and paprika and stir, heating the spice through without toasting or burning it.

When onion is soft, add the couscous to the pan and toss it in the oil to coat.

Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture up to a simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until three-quarters of the liquid has been absorbed into the pasta. Cover the pan and let the liquid continue to absorb over low heat.  Continue to stir once or twice during this process.

When liquid is almost absorbed, taste for doneness.  The couscous should be chewy without having a very hard, uncooked center.  If it is just about al dente, add a bit of salt to the pan if needed and stir it in.  Add the almonds and currants to the top of the mixture, stir.

Add the spinach leaves and and cover pan tightly.

With the heat still on low, steam only until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Remove lid, gently stir in the squash, turn off the heat, and cover to keep warm.

Blot the saute pan that cooked the squash with paper towel to remove moisture.  Add a couple of drops of oil to the pan and reheat it over medium high heat.  Add the lemon slices to the pan in a single layer.

Cook only until both sides are brown and caramelized.  Turn the finished couscous out into a serving dish, top with the lemon slices, and serve.

(Note:  If the couscous is not quite al dente after you first test for doneness, add a little more stock or water at that time and continue cooking gently until the liquid is almost absorbed.  Proceed to finish the dish as described above.)

©2010  Jane A. Ward