Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts

I first encountered Israeli couscous at a local Whole Foods in the prepared food gallery. In fact that same discovery was the inspiration for this dish. In the prepared foods case was a large bowl with a colorful array on orange, red, brown and green against a canvas of the white couscous.

This makes a great buffet item as it is tasty warm, cool or room temperature. It lends itself to infinite variations as well. Here is one of my favorites.

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts
Servings: 10-12
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled and seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 x 8.8 oz. packages of Israeli couscous
  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a half-sheet pan with a Silpat or sheet of parchment.
  2. In a bowl toss squash with 2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and black pepper. and spread in 1 layer. Spread on sheet pan into a single layer. Roast in upper third of oven 20 minutes, or until squash is just tender. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. While the squash cooks heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook until tender. Golden brown is OK here. Add to the bowl with the squash.
  4. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt, return to a boil and add the couscous along with the cinnamon sticks. Cook for ~10 minutes, until the couscous is tender. Drain, shake to remove excess water and add to the bowl with the squash. Remove the cinnamon sticks and discard them.
  5. Add lemon peel and juice, parsley, walnuts, dried cranberries to the bowl along with the last tablespoon of olive oil. Toss well to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Notes:
Most of the prep time here is in peeling and cubing the squash. I prefer to peel the squash with a chef’s knife. A sturdy U-shaped vegetable peeler will also work.

While there are several components to this dish, much of the cooking can be done at the same time. For example, the squash can roast while the onion cooks and pasta boils.

You can make this dish in advance, store it overnight and serve cold, room temperature or reheated in the microwave.

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