Couscous salad with butternut squash, mint, and arugula

I love fall and all the colors and flavors that come with it. The weather gets cooler and the food gets hardier. One of my favorite additions to our table are the squashes that start showing up at the market. I think the one I like most is butternut squash. This little guy is so versatile and tasty. We just found our first batch at Trader Joe’s. We bought 2 really large butternut squash and we’ll be able to make at least 4 recipes with them. Yippee!

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Related to my last post, I have a ton of mint that I don’t want to go to waste so of course I started looking for a recipe to combine my squash and mint. This one even added the Israeli Couscous that we love. This recipe is inspired by a vegetarian recipe I found that uses vegetable broth and adds currants. We changed it up to make it more savory and trying to highlight the earthiness of the arugula and squash.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups of 1/2 inch cubes peeled butternut squash
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 1/2 cups of chicken┬ábroth
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

Mix your squash and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl and season generously with the salt and pepper. Then transfer to a large baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, turning once or twice with tongs or a spatula. Cook until the squash is fork tender. (As a side note, the squash is good just like this and you could eat it right away – we do this a lot) Let the squash cool.

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Using a medium sauce pan, combine 1 tablespoon oil, couscous, 1 teaspoon salt and the broth. Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed. Toss the couscous with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and spread on a large baking sheet to cool.wpid-israeli-couscous-with-butternut-squash.jpg.jpeg

When ready, toss the cooled couscous with the butternut squash, mint, and add the arugula. You can use this as a side salad or a light lunch. You could even turn it into a main entree by adding some grilled chicken strips to it.

We served our dish with the arugula covering the couscous salad. Next time, I think I will put the arugula on the base and cover the arugula with the couscous salad. We paired this with some herb brined roasted chicken.

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Potatoes with Ginger and Mint

Earlier this summer we bought a mint plant. It was part of our effort to create a more well-rounded herb garden. At some point we realized that 8 basil and 4 rosemary plants didn’t give us all the options we wanted. The mint plant has been the most bountiful but the problem is that we don’t really cook with mint, like ever. So, I’ve had to look up recipes for this culinary gem.

This time I chose potatoes because we have a bag of them and wanted to do something different with them .I was surprised that there were so many recipes that had potatoes and mint. I finally picked one from Martha Stewart as a starting point. Of course we modified it, mainly because I think she under seasons her food to make it more appealing to a wider audience. Sorry, but I like flavors so we doubled most of her ingredients!

This recipe has some ingredients that don’t sound like they should go together but it turns out really good. I guess if anything, I’d say it has a Middle Eastern flavor with a little Mediterranean influence.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 3 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 cups fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Directions

First, heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Then, add the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of the ginger. (You’ll add the rest of the ginger towards the end) Cook this about 7 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are brown. Then season with salt and pepper.

Next, remove the pan from the heat and add the water. Stir in the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, cayenne pepper, cumin and turmeric. Then return to medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender and the water has evaporated. After about 10 minutes our potatoes were getting really tender but the water had not evaporated so we scooped out the potatoes and then reduced the water and then put the potatoes back in to finish them.

Finally, add the remaining ginger, the mint, lime zest, salt and pepper. Cook this until the mixture thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Once you’re done, stir in the lime juice.

We were really surprised by this recipe. You get a tartness from the lime but it’s not in your face and the mint gives just a subtle hint of sweetness without bringing a strong mint flavor to the dish.