It's about this time of year that I start getting antsy, culinarily speaking. It's getting colder and my body craves those hearty dishes of squash and legumes. But I'm also not ready to completely let go of the bright, fresh flavors of warmer days. This couscous salad with its roasted squash and citrusy vinaigrette bridges the gap.
This is one of those recipes that I find myself making again and again. It makes a lot, can be served warm or cool, and keeps well, so it's the perfect make-ahead potluck dish. The sweet flavor of the roasted squash makes 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.
Couscous Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries
1 medium butternut squash (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups uncooked Israeli (pearl) couscous
3 cups water
2 tablespoons apple cider or white wine vinegar
Finely grated zest of 1 small orange
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Place the squash cubes and onion slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, sprinkle with a big pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Spread into an even layer.
Roast, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and the onions are starting to crisp at the tips, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool before combining with other ingredients.
Meanwhile, 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.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and light golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Add the water and a big pinch of salt, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the couscous through a fine-mesh strainer.
Whisk the vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, zest, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt together in a large bowl. Add the squash, onions, couscous, garbanzo beans, and drained cranberries. Gently stir to combine. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and gently fold them into the salad. Taste to check seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve at room temperature or cold.
- Storage: Leftovers will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
This recipe was originally published February 25, 2008.