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5 from 5 votes

Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Pilaf

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.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Side Dish or Vegetarian Main Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: couscous, mediterranean
Servings: 5 people
Calories: 360kcal
Author: Sally Humeniuk

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 475F degrees, with oven rack in middle position. Coat a rimmed baking sheet lightly with coconut oil.
  • Melt two tablespoons of the coconut oil in the microwave. Set aside. In a small bowl combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Pour the melted coconut oil over the squash (By melting the coconut oil, it will coat the butternut squash fully but if the squash is cold, the oil will start to harden after added. That's totally fine because it's now on all the squash before turning hard). Immediately add the spice mixture from the small bowl, so the seasonings coat all the squash before the coconut oil hardens, if it's going to. Toss to fully coat the squash.
  • 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 and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 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 black pepper, olives, mint, almonds, lemon zest, and roasted butternut squash. Toss well to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.
  • Serve immediately. Leftovers keep well in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Notes

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.

Nutrition

Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 9g | Sodium: 228mg | Potassium: 834mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 19435IU | Vitamin C: 39.9mg | Calcium: 154mg | Iron: 2.6mg