Do you ever eye the pumpkins and winter squash at the market and think, "Fat chance! They're too much effort to prepare, plus I wouldn't know what to do with them, so why bother?" I used to think that before I began paying attention to the joys of seasonal eating. Now I just look at them and think, "How in the world will I get this home on my bike?!" But I'll usually end up buying the Red Kuri squash anyways - it's on the small side, if not annoyingly bulky, but at least it's not heavy. And I promise you, it's much easier to prepare than butternut squash, especially for today's recipe. I'm dishing it up as part of a colorful party platter perfect for a festive dinner this month. So before the winter squash disappear (I never know exactly when that will be!), go out and pick up one to make this platter.
If you're cooking a holiday meal this month and you're like me, you might be wondering how to make it special while keeping it simple so you can join in on the fun too. Here are three quick tips for getting delicious holiday meals on the table without the fuss.
- Choose recipes that can, at least in part, be made in advance so all you have left is cooking and assembling the day of.
- Serve meals platter-style: Combine grain and vegetable into one to streamline your planning and reduce the number of dishes and clutter on the table.
- Simplify: Make the one or two recipes that are really special and/or time consuming. Then simplify the rest. Don't place unnecessary expectations on yourself to recreate the entire food tradition if there are components that are not truly enjoyed and appreciated.
This green couscous is served platter style, and its components can be made in advance. Your only work the day of, if you so choose, is to roast squash that you pre-cut, boil water to steam couscous, and assemble the platter. Serve this as your grain and veg side-in-one for a larger meal or as a head-turning vegetarian centerpiece. See recipe notes for serving suggestions as a vegetarian main. And for my Southern hemisphere friends, stuff yellow summer squash or zucchini in place of the winter squash and add dried cranberries or cherries to the couscous in place of pomegranate.
Green Couscous Platter with Roasted Squash, Feta, and Pomegranate
Serves: 4 (as a side), 2-4 (as a main)
Notes: This is an easy recipe to scale up just by adjusting the size or number of squash you buy and doubling the rest. If serving as a vegetarian main, add 15 oz can (1 1/2 cups) cooked chickpeas or another white bean to the couscous. For those of you in the Southern hemisphere: stuff yellow summer squash or zucchini instead of the red kuri, and add dried cranberries or cherries to the couscous in place of pomegranate.
- 1 red kuri squash (or similar: baby red hubbard, hokkaido, or kabocha)
- Kale & Herb Sauce (recipe below), divided
- Simple Couscous (recipe below)
- 1/2 cup (45 gr) flaked or slivered almonds, toasted
- Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate (instructions for deseeding)
- Handful sheep's milk feta, crumbled (optional)
- Preheat oven to 218 C/425 F. Quarter squash and scoop out seeds. Place quarters on a baking tray, skin side down, and smear a little ghee or coconut oil, salt, and pepper on the inside. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until edges begin to brown and fork pierces through flesh easily.
- In the meantime, make green sauce and couscous (recipes below), and toast almonds in a dry skillet.
- Mix half of green sauce into cooked couscous, reserving the other half to drizzle over platter at the end and for passing at the table. (You will not regret having extra sauce, so you might want to double it!) If making this as a vegetarian main, stir chickpeas into couscous now. Season green couscous with salt and pepper, if needed.
- Place roasted squash quarters on a large platter. Fill with couscous, distributing any leftover couscous around the platter. Scatter around almonds, pomegranate, and feta. Drizzle over a little more green sauce and serve remaining sauce at the table.
*Make-ahead Instructions: Make green sauce, quarter and deseed squash, and deseed pomegranates up to two days in advance. Store these components in the fridge, covered. Day of, bring sauce and pomegranate seeds to room temperature, roast squash, cook couscous, and assemble the platter.
Kale & Herb Sauce
Notes: If you're cooking for more than 4 people or you just like having extra sauce on hand like me, I would highly recommend doubling this sauce. The recipe uses approximately half a small bunch of each mint and parsley, so doubling will likely use the whole bunch of each herb.
- 1 cup (35 gr) chopped kale (~ 1 medium leaf, stripped from stem)
- 1/2 cup (10 gr) loosely packed mint leaves
- 1/2 cup (10 gr) parsley
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (if doubling recipe, start with this amount and add more to taste)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Place kale, mint, parsley, and red pepper flakes in a food processor. Pulse to mince, then add in remaining ingredients. Let motor run until you get a smooth sauce.
- Taste, and adjust for seasoning. This sauce is bright and spiky which you want at this stage so it stands out in the finished dish.
- 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
- 1 cup (192 gr) couscous
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Scant 1/2 tsp. salt + black pepper, to taste
- Place couscous in a medium glass mixing bowl along with salt, pepper, and oil. Add the boiling water. Stir quickly then immediately place plastic wrap over the bowl or a plate that fits just inside the bowl leaving no space where steam can escape.
- Steam for 10 minutes. Remove cover and fluff with fork.
Upcoming (!): Your Guide to Thriving During the Holidays
Wondering how you can enjoy the holidays while keeping all those good habits you've formed this year in place? I've got you covered! Next week I'm giving you my easy and practical three-step action plan to feeling balanced in body and mind and thriving this holiday season. Stay tuned!!