This recipe is the result of a single goal: clearing out the pantry. I had a half-used, who-knows-how-old bag of Israeli couscous, a batch of almonds I’d roasted the day before, kale in the garden that needed to be picked, and a butternut squash that I compulsively bought at the store. My sole objective was to find a way to use those ingredients--that this couscous salad turned out absolutely delicious and soon became a dish that my family would ask for is a very happy coincidence!
Israeli couscous was initially developed as a replacement for rice, and it brings both the texture of large grains and the lightness of pasta to this dish. I added yogurt to this recipe to tie the components of the salad together, and it has the added benefit of making the couscous sticky and easier to eat.
My recipe for Home-Roasted Almonds is easy and healthy, using the minimum of both salt and oil to produce perfect roasted nuts. I try to keep some on hand, but they only take about 20 minutes to roast and could be made the same day as the salad. If you do use store-bought roast almonds, be careful not to add too much salt to the salad; many store varieties will bring a lot of sodium on their own!
The butternut squash, which was the ingredient I was most apprehensive about including, wound up being the piece that brought the whole dish together. I love a roast butternut squash (thus, my habit of picking one up every few grocery trips) and its savory sweetness rounds out the flavor of the salad, interacting with the tart Greek yogurt to form a complex flavor profile.
I’m especially excited about this recipe right now because it’s officially the beginning of winter squash season, and I’m breaking out all of my favorite squash-based recipes. To peel and dice your squash, begin by cutting off its top and bottom. Stand the squash up on a cutting board and peel from the top to the bottom, rotating it around until you’ve got most of the skin off. To finish off the very bottom skin, I typically lay the squash on its side. Once the skin is off, cut your squash in half along its long axis and scoop out the seeds + guts. Now you’re ready to chop and roast!
I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine does, and that it adds a bit of variety to your fall menu!
Israeli Couscous Salad with Kale, Butternut Squash and Roast Almonds
1 Medium Butternut Squash
2 T Olive Oil
1 c Roast Almonds
1 c Israeli Couscous
2.5 oz Baby Kale
1/2 c Greek Yogurt
1/2 Lemon, juiced
Salt and Pepper to taste
Peel and dice your squash into 1/2" cubes according to the instructions above (or purchase pre-diced squash). Toss the squash in olive oil to coat and salt generously, then spread them out on a baking sheet and roast at 400° for 40 minutes. Turn the squash once at the halfway mark. The squash will be done when a fork easily penetrates a piece; remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
If you are roasting raw almonds today, coat them in 2 tsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp salt. Transfer the almonds to a pre-warmed large skillet and stir intermittently over medium-high heat for 20-30 minutes, until the almonds are dark brown, aromatic, and crunch when you bite one (allow your test almond to cool before you bite!). Set aside to cool.
Cook your Israeli couscous according to the instructions on the package.
Transfer the couscous to a serving bowl and stir the kale into the still-warm pasta, allowing it to wilt slightly.
Add squash, almonds, yogurt and lemon juice to the couscous and kale and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with pitas and hummus.