Settle into sweater weather with a scrumptious grain salad bursting with complex layers of flavor and chock full of fantastic texture. It was inspired from the master of interesting combinations of foods, Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu who is the author of 3 interesting cookbooks and has one of the hottest restaurants in London bearing his name. Although it will seem like the seasonings are odd together and too numerous, trust me on this one. Ottolenghi knows what he is doing. Thiis delicious salad will become a favorite. If you will serve it as a side grain, you can omit the arugula. Variations would include changing the nuts to hazelnuts, adding pomegranate seeds or toasted sunflower seeds.
“The kitchen is a country in which there are always discoveries to be made.” Grimod de la Reynière
COUSCOUS with DRIED APRICOTS and ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
1 large (red) onion, thinly sliced
6 tbs olive oil
50g dried apricots – (1/2 cup)
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch dice
250g couscous (1 1/2 cups)
400ml chicken or vegetable stock (1 1/2 cups)
a pinch of saffron strands
3 tbs roughly chopped tarragon
3 tbs roughly chopped mint
3 tbs roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
coarse sea salt and black pepper
1/2 c shelled and toasted pistachios
2 cups of arugula
3 fresh apricots, optional, pitted and cut in 6 segments, as garnish
Preheat the oven to 400F
Place onion in a large frying pan with 2 T oil and a pinch of salt. Sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes, until translucent and a golden, caramalized brown. Set aside.
Pour hot water from the tap over the apricots just to cover them. Soak for 5 mins then drain and cut them into small dice.
Coat the diced squash in 1-2 T olive oil and spread out on a baking tray to roast. Place in oven for 40 mins, until soft, stirring to prevent sticking, half way through.
While waiting for the butternut squash to roasting, cook the couscous. Bring the stock to boiling, add the saffron. Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and pour the boiling stock over it, plus the remaining olive oil. Cover with clingfilm and leave for about 10 mins for all of the liquid to be absorbed. When done, fluff with up with a fork. Then add the onions, squash, apricots, herbs, cinnamon and lemon zest and juice. Mix well with hands.
Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warmish or cold over a bed of arugula. Top with the toasted pistachios and fresh apricots, if using.
For more interesting recipes, check out Ottolenghi and his partner Sami Tamimi’s cookbooks.