I’ve made this Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Pilaf pretty much once a week since first discovering it in one of those bargain-priced cookbooks that Barnes and Noble features inside their “foyer” with a themed collection of recipes, this one being 28 Days of Clean Eating. After reading the recipe’s ingredient list, what’s not to love? Toasty-roasted butternut squash, kalamata olives, fresh mint, sliced almonds, coconut oil, and lemon zest. All tossed with Israeli or pearl couscous, which if you haven’t tried this jumbo sized couscous before, here is the perfect dish for diving in. It’s a quick and easy recipe; let me tell you about it…
First, and important is the roasted squash- Two pounds of chunked butternut gets tossed with some coconut oil (fabulous!), cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper before going in the oven. The coconut oil adds the perfect bit of light sweetness and the spice combination is spot on warm but bright at the same time; into the oven until it begins to caramelize at the edges. A few times, I forgot to toss during baking and one side got kind of black… still tasty!
While the butternut squash is roasting, the Israeli couscous is toasted with some garlic and then boiled till tender. The couscous is ready to go pretty much at the same time the squash is ready.
The addition of fresh mint, Kalamata olives, toasted sliced almonds, and lemon zest bring everything together in both flavor and texture. Truly a perfect Mediterranean dish that works as a side to chicken or salmon, we love it as a main dish. And leftovers, if you have any, are great at room temperature or reheated.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Pilaf is so easy and will become irresistible, maybe you should keep some squash cut up in the freezer, and a box of couscous on hand. If you’re wanting a gluten-free dish, substitute the couscous with cooked quinoa. Top the pilaf with a little crumbled feta cheese for even more fabulous flavor and if you’re interested in even more color and added crunch, toss in a chopped red bell pepper right before serving. I’m hungry for this just as I’m writing so good thing I took my own advice and I’ve got all the ingredients in my kitchen right now. Enjoy, friends. And thanks for stopping by… it really means a lot. xo
This recipe is a wonderful side dish but also hearty enough to be served as a meatless main dish. Leftovers are delicious at room temperature or reheated.
- 3 tbsp coconut oil, divided, plus additional for greasing the pan
- 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
- 1 tsp black pepper, divided, preferably fresh ground
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 8 ounces Israeli couscous, also known as pearled couscous
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved (more if you like)
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 475F degrees, with oven rack in middle position. Coat a rimmed baking sheet lightly with coconut oil.
In a medium bowl, combine the butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Toss to fully coat the squash. Feel free to sprinkle a little extra cumin and/or cayenne if you like. With cumin, a little goes a long way but an extra dash or two just adds to the flavor of the squash. 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper adds just a little bit of heat that mixes nicely with the couscous. Add more to your liking.
Turn out the coated butternut squash on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Stir and toss the squash a bit at the 10 minute mark to prevent burning.
While the butternut squash is roasting, in a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and garlic; saute' for 1 minute.
Stir in the 2 cups of water, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 10-12 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the olives, mint, almonds, lemon zest, and roasted butternut squash. Toss well to combine.
Serve immediately. Leftovers keep well in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
As stated in instruction #2, feel free to add more cayenne pepper and cumin to the butternut squash before roasting. For those of you who do not like any heat at all, you could reduce the cayenne to 1/4 teaspoon but I promise that cayenne in this recipe is a great addition. And as noted, if increasing the cumin, be careful as cumin can overpower.
Trader Joe's and other grocery stores sometimes have pre-cut butternut squash in 12 oz. packages. You can use two of these and don't worry about needing a full two pounds in the recipe.
If you're in a rush or forgot to toast the sliced almonds, feel free to add them un-toasted and they still add nice flavor and texture. Toasted almonds will increase the nuttiness and are preferable but not required.
Want to add extra Kalamata olives? Great idea! These nice salty olives go so well with the mint, squash, and couscous that I frequently add more.
Recipe adapted from 28 Days of Clean Eating.