Recipe: Couscous Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries

It's about this time of year that I start getting antsy, culinarily speaking. It's still winter and my body craves those hearty dishes of squash and legumes. But I'm also ready for the bright, fresh flavors of spring. This couscous salad with its roasted squash and citrusy vinaigrette bridges the gap.

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This is one of those recipes that I find myself making again and again, and not only in springtime. The recipe makes a lot, can be served warm or cool, and keeps well, so this is the perfect make-ahead potluck dish. The sweet flavor of the roasted squash make it equally fitting to serve for brunch or a side dish at dinner. I can also make a batch on Sunday and have my lunches all set for the entire week.

There are a lot of parts to this dish, but you'll find it comes together surprisingly quickly. While the squash and onions are roasting, you can plump the cranberries and make the couscous. All that's left is to toss everything together with the vinaigrette. I find that the salad is even better the second day after the flavors have had time to mingle.

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Couscous Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries
Serves 8-10

1 medium (2 1/2 - 3 lb) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup uncooked couscous
4-5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Zest of one orange
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cumin
1-3 teaspoons salt
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
3 oz goat cheese

Pre-heat oven to 425° F. Toss the squash cubes and the onion slices with a bit of olive oil and salt. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and the onions are starting to crisp at the tips, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool before combining with other ingredients.

Cover the cranberries with very hot water and set them aside to plump while the squash is cooking. Drain before combining with the other ingredients.

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the couscous and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover and let sit for about 15 minutes until the cous cous has absorbed all the water. Fluff the couscous with a fork and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, zest, spices, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Combine squash, onions, couscous, garbanzo beans, and drained cranberries in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Crumble the goat cheese into chunks with your fingers and gently fold them into the salad. Taste to check seasoning and add salt if needed.

This salad can be served room temperature or cold. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to a week.

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Related: Easy Pantry Dinners: 5 Quick Dishes with Couscous

This recipe was originally published 2/25/08

(Images: Emma Christensen)

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