Winter Toasted Couscous Salad
You may have noticed from the appearance of summery cocktails and berry pies, my taste buds are pulling for an early spring. Today may be the first day in three months that our temperature has reached 40 degrees and I’m celebrating by not wearing a wool sweater. (Hooray for cotton!) Spring calls for salads and a return to fresh produce. Yet our snow covered ground is still sleeping, pushing me to be creative with winter produce for a little while longer.
This winter toasted couscous salad was inspired by a salad served in the deli at Whole Foods. We enjoyed our container of salad so much that I peeled off the ingredient list and stuck it in my purse with every intention of recreating it at home the next week. Ha. I don’t know about you, but my purse is something of a bottomless pit. When looking for the checkbook, Mr. B usually just hands me the purse and asks if I can find it. The thought of digging through the dark depths with his bare hands is more than he can handle. So it should come as no surprise that the ingredient list languished for far too long in the black hole I carry around each day.
Once the list was unearthed and I assembled a riff on the salad, I kicked myself for waiting until winter has almost waned to make it. The combination of soft nutty couscous, savory fennel, and sweet cranberries creates a hearty and delicious dish. Steaming the couscous keeps the grains fluffy and prevents clumping, giving the salad a lovely texture. Served hot or cold, this toasted couscous salad will invigorate your taste buds if they are tired of winter flavors and help hold you over until spring.
Winter Toasted Couscous Salad (Printable Recipe)
2 cups Couscous
3 cups Water, plus additional
1 medium Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2″ chunks (about 4 cups)
2 T Olive Oil
1 Fennel Bulb, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
4 large Shallots, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup Dried Cranberries
1 cup Black Currants
3/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Sherry Vinegar
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 teaspoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Sage
1 teaspoon Parsley
Place butternut squash in a medium pot over high heat and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Once squash is finished cooking, drain the excess liquid.
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a pot or kettle. While the water is coming to a boil, add couscous to a large dry pan (with no oil or liquid) and stir until the couscous become aromatic and begins to turn a light brown color. Once the couscous starts to turn light brown, turn off the heat. Place the couscous into a large casserole pan and pour 3 cups of boiling water over the couscous. Stir to make sure the couscous is evenly moistened, then immediately cover the casserole with a lid or plastic wrap. Let the couscous steam for 10 minutes without disturbing the cover. After 10 minutes, remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork.
Place a large skillet (you can use the same one you toasted the couscous in) over medium heat. Add olive oil, fennel, and shallots. Saute until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
Mix all of the dressing ingredients together, then drizzle over the hot couscous. Stir with a fork until the dressing is evenly distributed. Add the fennel and onion mixture, along with the butternut squash, dried cranberries, and black currants to the couscous. Mix everything together gently, taste and adjust salt and pepper as necessary. Serve hot or cold.