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!