Our thanks to guest contributor, Tracey Shafroth for this marvelous recipe.
My fab sister-in-law Barr has introduced me to any number of exciting new foods but I think my most favorite of all time is Middle Eastern Couscous, also known as Israeli Couscous. Aside from a great flavor and “tooth,” this grain keeps well, reheats beautifully and gives me the perfect excuse to experiment with all kinds of my most prized ingredients.
My ultimate combo is one which I serve in the fall. It reminds me of something I ate in North Africa. There are any number of possibilities, so be creative and add your own flourishes. You can caramelize the onions and make the butternut squash spice mixture a day a ahead of time.
North African Couscous
10 medium sized onions
2-3 cups of butternut squash
1 cup of currants
salt and pepper
1-2 teaspoons of Marakesh Moroccan spice blend or something similar
(found at specialty spice stores all over)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 cups Middle Eastern or (Isreali or Jordanian, whatever you want to call it just make sure it’s large and not like the North African kind) Couscous
2 cups roasted pecans
Preheat oven to 550 degrees.
Peel the onions and slice them in half, half again and half again until you have 16 sections. Put them into a large roasting pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and bake for about 15 minutes. Stir the onions, being sure to bring the onions along the edge to the center as they tend to brown/burn more quickly there.
Cook the onions at this very high heat while they sweat and stir every ten minutes or so until they begin to brown. After about 40 minutes reduce the heat to 350 degrees and let them cook for another 20 minutes. The pile of 10 onions that you started out with will cook down to a modest two or three cups of a sweet brown mass that makes the dish.
While the onions are cooking, peel and core one or two butternut squashes (depending on the size) and cut into a one inch dice. Set aside.
In a large bowl place a cup of currants and the chopped sage. When the onions are finished pour them on top of the currants and sage and set aside. Turn the oven back to 550 degrees.
Put the diced butternut squash in the same roasting pan that the onions were in. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over them, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of coarse ground salt, a few grindings of pepper and 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Stir well and place in the oven, stirring every 10 minutes until they are just tender, about 25 minutes. You want the squash to be cooked but not mushy. When finished, pour the squash over the onion-current mixture and mix gently.
Put 3 quarts of water or stock into a large pot. I prefer stock as it gives the couscous a richer flavor. Bring to a boil and add 3 cups of couscous. Cook for 10 minutes or until soft.
Drain the couscous over a fine mesh colander and pour immediately over the roasted vegetables. Mix gently, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add additional North African spice (if desired) and 2 cups of toasted pecan halves.
That’s it! Serve by itself with a green salad or use it as a base for some braised chicken, pork or stew. The possibilities are limitless!