There are certain blogs that I trust implicitely for great recipes.
David Lebovitz' is one of them.
His book has never let me down, and anything I have made from his site has turned out better than good.
This is his favorite side dish, and is now one of mine.
It is time consuming, but oh so worth it.
It was somewhat difficult to find preserved lemons. So, you can either make them at home from this recipe, buy them at a Middle Eastern market, or order them online at Sur la Table, like I did!
Try it for your next dinner party, it serves 8.
FYI: Israeli or pearl couscous is not the regular small size couscous, but a bigger, fluffier version. It is a pasta product, not a grain.
Israeli Couscous w/ Butternut Squash & Preserved Lemon: (adapted from Gourmet Magazine & David's site):
1 1/2-pounds (1.25 kg) butternut squash, peeled and seeded
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and minced
1 3/4 cup (280 g) Israeli couscous, or Italian pepe-style pasta
1 small cinnamon stick
1 preserved lemon
1/2 cup (60 g) golden raisins
1/4 cup (30 g) dried cherries or cranberries, coarsely chopped (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (60 g) chopped flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (see Note)
Preheat the oven to 450F (245C).
1. Cut the squash into 1/4-inch (1 cm) cubes and toss them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a seasoning of salt in a large baking dish or pan.
2. Cook on the upper rack of the oven until the squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. (Don't overcook.)
3. While the squash is cooking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions over medium-high heat with a bit of salt until translucent.
4. Scrape cooked squash & onions together in a large bowl.
5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the Israeli couscous with the cinnamon stick until tender, about 10 minutes.
6. While the couscous cooks, cut the preserved lemon in quarters and scoop out the insides. Reserve the flesh for squeezing.
Dice the lemon into 1/4-inch (1 cm) cubes, add them to the squash, then press the reserved flesh through a strainer to extract the liquid, and add the liquid to the squash.
7. Drain the couscous and discard the cinnamon stick.
8. Add the couscous to the bowl of squash, then add the raisins, ground cinnamon, parsley, and toasted pine nuts.
Serving: Serve warm, although it can also be served at room temperature.
Note: To toast pine nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and toast them in a 350F (180C) oven, checking and stirring them frequently, until nutty-brown, as shown in the photo in the post. Pine nuts burn quite easily so begin checking them after 4-5 minutes, then keep a close an eye on them after that.