Butternut Squash and Feta


When I read a review of The New Rules, by Christopher Kimball, I just knew I had to own it. It is a book of “recipes that will change the way you cook.”

This is part of his introduction: Rules are a mixed blessing. They are useful in building a foundation of knowledge, whether in music or cooking. But they also create boundaries that can dampen improvisation. The New Rules is our attempt to do both, to create a communal starting point for a new way to cook… while also inspiring home cooks to abandon rigid culinary notions.

A few examples – Water for stock. Putting the sweet back into savory. Blooming spices. Bitter and charred as flavors. Herbs as greens.. and etc.

I’ve already made one recipe from this book – spicy stir fried green beans – which was really good.

For the blog I chose to make this butternut squash dish because Mr. Kimball states that “a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese balances the dish with sharp, salty notes and dill adds a fresh flavor and fragrance.”

Sorry Chris, but I’m just not fond of dill.

The lesson in this dish is caramelizing, or toasting the couscous prior to cooking to enhance its flavor.

This is obviously a vegetarian dish, but grilled chicken or pork could be added, or this can be a side dish to those proteins. To serve this, I chose a pesto-slathered chicken breast.

Butternut Squash and Feta, with Toasted Pearl Couscous

4 tablespoons extra-virgin oil, divided
1 cup pearl couscous
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2” cubes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 cups water (I used broth)
1 – 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons chopped dill, divided

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

In the same pot over medium high, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil until shimmering. Add the squash, then stir in 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

The last time I cut up a butternut squash my hand almost fell off, so I decided to test out this frozen kabocha (pumpkin) instead. It was completely thawed first.

Distribute in an even layer and cook without stirring until well browned, 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally and continue to cook until a skewer inserted into the largest piece meets no resistance, another 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to brown, 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin and bay, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in 2 cups of water and the couscous. Cover and simmer until the couscous is tender but not mushy, about 7 minutes.

Off heat, remove and discard the bay. Stir in the chickpeas, squash, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of dill.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon dill and the feta.

Serve with lemon wedges.

As I mentioned, I omitted the dill.

This is truly fabulous. The couscous holds up really well, and the frozen butternut squash did as well.

If I have to be honest I wouldn’t like the butternut squash mixture as much without the feta, but that’s just me!

39 thoughts on “Butternut Squash and Feta

    • Yes, it’s similar after toasting and cooking. So many fun grains from which to choose! Personally, however, I don’t love quinoa. I Iknow!

  1. What a lovely combination with the squash, cheese and I do love dill! Since I quit growing my own squash I am buying it in packaged form – saves some fingers. I haven’t been following Chris – I no longer subscribe to his magazine. I might have to add this cookbook to my collection…

    • He’s quite impressive – I always liked listening to him on the radio when I remembered. But I wouldn’t call the book revelatory. Maybe it’s more inspirational to more novice cooks? But still good and competent recipes.

  2. I understand you not caring for dill as I can’t even taste it. I see plants at the gardening shop and I pick bits off and taste it but to me there is no taste. I’ve put it in recipes – no flavour. So now I don’t bother and use something I can taste. I wonder what I’m missing!! :))

    • Very interesting! It definitely has flavor. I’ll put it on smoked salmon, sometimes, but I just don’t like it enough to use more than that. It’s pretty! I don’t love tarragon either…

  3. I absolutely love butternut squash and you have elevated them to a whole new level with this recipe. What a great idea to include feta cheese. As always, thanks for sharing.

  4. Oh my gosh but I love this recipte, Mimi. I think I’d probably really like the cookbook, too, so thank you for the introduction. I love feta, and use it a lot. Everything about this appeals to me. :-)

  5. Toasting the couscous is, as a matter of fact, a rule in Sardinia. The local couscous is coarse and called fregula or fregola. It does add a lot of flavor. I’m with you on dill, which I only like in small quantities.

  6. I do like dill, but only when it’s fresh from our garden. Which means much of the year I don’t bother with it. Anyway, this looks good — interesting combo of flavors. We often garnish with feta — love its flavor. Thanks!

  7. This looks so tasty, Mimi! I love the idea of pairing feta with squash of any kind! I love how simple and easy the entire recipe is and I imagine it is a satisfying dish, meat or no meat on the side!

    • It is a pretty simple dish but full of flavors and textures. I would prefer a bit of grilled chicken or a sausage, but that’s just me. Lots of carbs in this dish! But it is yummy.

  8. What a wonderful dish. We are trying to eat more plant-based so this would be a good meatless dish in our repertoire, plus we love feta. Although, the feta definitely has to be Greek, it needs the piquant flavour a good Greek feta has that the North American fetas seem to lack. I’m intrigued by the frozen squash, we have a lot more variety of frozen veg here so I’ll check to see if there is some next time I’m at the grocer.

    • I was so relieved to not have to dice up a whole butternut squash. And I was happy with the frozen squash I bought. So worth it. I’m old and, sadly, getting a bit arthritic, so now I’m appreciating shortcuts! I love Greek feta as well. I used to be able to get Hungarian feta, which was spectacular, sold in brine of course.. but that store closed, sadly.

  9. I saw him a few years back and loved his show. He’s quite humorous even though he seems dry on tv.

    I would have never thought to pair feta with butternut squash but will take your word for it.

    I’m a sucker for cookbooks so if you say you love this I’ll be sure to order it.

    I look forward to trying this recipe and others when i get the book.

    Enjoy the rest of your day!

    • I don’t think the cookbook if life changing, but it’s fascinating, and his recipes are always high quality! Plus, there’s always something to learn. He’s very serious, isn’t he?!! But he seems like a nice man.

  10. I hate to seem to be the picky one, but I am not a huge fan of Chris or Milk Street. I totally understand the idea of rule changing, but he often presents things as being authentic and they are nothing like the recipe or its original rules. I’m curious to see this book… Maybe my library has it and I can check it out. Oh that said, this recipe actually looks fantastic. I didn’t know you wanted fan of dill… So many other possibilities to substitute!

    • Well certainly don’t buy it first. I understand your reasoning. I only own this cookbook. I remember him more as the editor of Cooks Illustrated…

  11. Ok, I have never read this book, but I am already a fan! I love the idea behind Mr. Kimball’s introduction! And this meal is right up my alley! It really is amazing how toasting the couscous before cooking makes such a difference. I can almost smell the toasty couscous, comforting sweet potato, and the salty feta. Totally see how a pesto-covered protein would compliment beautifully as well, what a great idea!

    • Thank you! I am never without pesto because I make so much during the summer months and freeze it, without adding the cheese, which takes up much less room. I’ve always said that my husband could eat it on ice cream! Love this vegetable, cheese, and couscous combination, and who doesn’t love butternut squash?!!

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