This past Sunday was by far the nicest day for weather that we’ve had in months and I finally had the opportunity to emerge from my basement apartment where I’ve been in isolation for the last seven weeks and spend a few leisurely moments reading in a sunny corner of the back yard. I’m very fortunate to have this little piece of outdoor space and I’m sure in the coming weeks I’ll learn to value and appreciate it even more.
This glimpse of outdoor life naturally has me thinking of summer and the sweetness and decadence of these ephemeral months, and all the culinary treats we freely indulge in. But once you’ve binged your way through several litres of ice cream what do you eat for a balanced lunch or dinner without sacrificing that summer mood? Couscous is really the only grain that I can think of that conjures summer – it’s the lighter, fluffier and more fun cousin of the serious and solemn grains like rice, quinoa and bulgur, and it’s also one of the few grains that pairs well with fruits and other sugars.
But hold on, it’s not quite summer yet and we still may need some of those essential hibernation carbs to help us endure the last stretch of cold weather. I like to think of this recipe as a good meal for seasonal transitions. I consider squash an autumn and winter food, so its inclusion in this salad for me adds the perfect amount of healthy hardiness and rich and warm post-winter flavouring.
Ingredients (makes 4 to 5 servings):
For the Salad –
2 cups of couscous
3 cups of vegetable broth
1 medium Butternut Squash (plus 1 tbsp. of margarine, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper and a dash of cinnamon)
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 bunch of green onions, ends only, diced
For the Dressing –
1/4 cup of tahini
2 tbsp. of lemon juice
1 tsp of salt
2 tbsp. of olive oil
2-4 tbsp. of water
1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Slice the squash in half and removed the seeds. Fill a medium baking dish with enough water to cover the bottom. Place the squash, flesh down in the dish. Cook for 50-60 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Scoop out the cooked squash into a small bowl, and with a fork mix in 1 tbsp. of margarine, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper and a dash of cinnamon.
2. While the squash is cooking, prepare the dressing. In a blender or food processor, add the flesh of 2 avocados, 1/4 cup tahini, 2 tbsp. of lemon juice, 1 tsp of salt, 2 tbsp. of olive oil, and 2 tbsps. of water. Blend until smooth. If the dressing is too thick, add 1-2 more tbsps. of water. Set aside.
3. Prepare the couscous. Bring 3 cups of vegetable broth to a boil Add the couscous and remove from heat and cover with a lid. It usually only takes a few minutes for the couscous to absorb the broth. It should be nice and fluffy when it’s done.
4. Transfer to a large salad bowl. Add the cooked squash, cucumber, tomato, and green onions and mix it all up.
4. Top with the dressing and serve cold or hot.