Mommy guilt is a great motivator. Some spoil with truckloads of toys. For my girls it usually means a batch of cookies. Except children cannot live on chocolate chip cookies alone, even if they are the best in the world—Isabella’s words, and I kind of agree.
When I’m away traveling or have a crazy week of evening events, I leave the next best thing to a hug and kiss goodnight—some homecooked comfort to fill their bellies. Isabella’s new found love is Israeli couscous. The first time she had it was at our friends and it was lightly seasoned with cumin. I was pretty floored when she not only devoured it, but even asked for seconds. She’s a quirky kid when it comes to certain flavors.
But I digress, because there is no cumin in this recipe, though I suspect it would put a delightful twist on it. This was one of those fly-by-the-seat of your pantry dishes. I knew the delicata squash on the kitchen counter was destined for the pan. After perusing the cupboard, I decided pistachios and dried sour cherries would keep it company. I’ve since made this using butternut squash, about a cup is all you need to swap in. And really, any winter squash you have hanging around will do.
The best part is once you prep your ingredients, this is ready to eat in about 10 minutes. The taste gets better the next day, so consider it a good make ahead meal too. And while you may be tempted to serve it as a side dish, I serve it as a main course. I did so with hesitation at first, but then realized I make vegetarian pasta dishes all the time. Israeli couscous is afterall just a tiny, pearl-sized pasta, so why not keep this front and center.
Israeli couscous with squash, dried cherries and pistachios
This is a perfect lunchbox meal too. If I ever have leftovers, I’m going to prove that theory.
1 cup Israeli couscous
pinch of salt, plus more to season as needed
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 average-sized delicata squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
handful of dried tart cherries
handful of unsalted pistachios
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Fresh chopped parsley
Bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add a pinch of salt, then the couscous. Reduce flame slightly if water begins to boil over. Cook until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. This should be finished cooking just as you need to add it to the saute pan, but you can also strain and set aside if it doesn’t time out.
Meanwhile, heat a swirl of olive oil, enough to coat the pan, in a 10-inch skillet. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, Add the squash and saute until golden and lightly browned. Stir in the dried cherries and pistachios. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the drained couscous. Add a bit more olive oil if needed to keep it from sticking to the pan. Stir in the parsley and serve warm, or let cool and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two days.