Hearty yet refreshing seems to be an odd flavour combination, but with the humble butternut squash in its most simplistic state, Mark Bittman has successfully translated this flavour profile with zero stove/oven time!
As this golden fleshed squash made its rare entry into my kitchen, I timidly approached with a vegetable peeler. Their first tough encounter gave me doubts on the prospects of this dish, but one snap-sounding bite was enough to shatter my hesitations. The distinct flavour and strong personality of this squash was well balanced by its natural sweetness; its pillow-tender interior was smartly enclosed by a refreshing crunchy coat. I was inspired to inject an Asian twist to this not-so-Asian vegetable.
~ Fresh Butternut Squash Salad with Israeli Couscous ~
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded and grated (I made ribbons with a vegetable peeler)
2 tbs sesame seed oil
2 tbs pomegranate syrup (this can be replaced with balsamic vinegar)
1 lb package Israeli couscous - cooked with water or chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbs Toasted sesame seeds
2 tbs Toasted sesame seed oil
2-3 tbs Szechuan Chili Bean Paste
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorn
3-4 tbs Chinese chicken marinate sauce (this is vegan)
1 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Toasted pumpkin seeds and candied pecan for decoration
1. Gently toss the butternut squash ribbons in 2 tbs of toasted sesame oil and pomegranate syrup. Set it aside in a large salad bowl.
2. In a 4-6 quart pot, heat the toasted sesame seed oil in medium heat, stir in the Israeli couscous and allow it to toast for 2 minutes, turn the heat to high then add the amount of liquid as instructed on the package (water or chicken stock). Cover and allow it to come to a rapid boil.
3. Reduce heat so the mixture returns to a simmer. Stir occasionally with spoon and cook until the Israeli couscous has absorbed all the cooking liquid and has become al-dente.
4. Stir in the marinate sauce and chili bean paste and allow the couscous to absorb the sauce for about 1-2 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted sesame seeds. Allow the couscous to cool completely to room temperature.
6. Lay the cooled couscous over the butternut squash ribbons, and dress with toasted pumpkin seeds and candied pecans.