Couscous Salad with Lentils, Butternut Squash and Grapes is a celebration of the autumn harvest and perfect for a warmer fall day or a potluck.
OK the World Series is over (let’s have a moment of respectful silence for the frustrated Cleveland fan), and I am determined to get my butt back in gear with a more regular schedule. I hope. I think. Etcetera.
Now I don’t know about you, but for me autumn does not just mean apples and pumpkin, although those lovely fall crops do get their fair share of love and more. Another favorite in autumn is grapes–and grapes often go overlooked in savory preparations, but they are delicious and should be used more often. Take for example the green grapes in the Chicken in Wine dish I just posted. Or grapes in Thai curry. And grapes are fabulous in grain salads, like this Couscous Salad with Lentils, Butternut Squash and Grapes (and check out how I slid a variation of pumpkin into the dish as well!).
John and I really enjoyed this couscous salad; if I were to make it again, I would use feta cheese in it. I had the feeling the kids would prefer feta, but I was out and only had blue cheese. I thought the blue cheese was lovely, but as you might imagine, I realize blue cheese can be hit or miss for people, especially kids, as it is so strong.
One note about the couscous: every source I have looked at suggested a different ratio for the water to couscous. I have finally come to the conclusion that it just depends on the individual brand of couscous, individual taste and maybe even where you live! Here in western Pennsylvania in the fall I have been successful with 1 1/4 cups water to 1 cup of couscous, but do read the directions for your couscous and do experiment to get it just right for you!
- 2 cups couscous
- water for couscous (see notes above, I like 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 cup lentils du puy
- 1 med-large red onion finely chopped, divided
- 1 small-medium butternut squash peeled, seeded and cubed
- 2-3 t extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Lemon Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
- 3 handfuls pecans chopped
- 3 large handfuls red grapes-- eyeball the grapes and slice the larger ones in half
- 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
- 5 oz crumbled blue cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Place the couscous in a large, heat-proof bowl. Pour 1 1/4 cups (or however much water you prefer--see my notes above) lightly salted boiling water over the couscous (I like to use my Keurig for this). Place plastic wrap over the bowl to force the couscous to absorb water AND steam. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, then uncover to cool.
- Finely chop the onion--place 2/3 of it into a small bowl and then cover with cold water. Set aside.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the lentils and the remaining 1/3 onion. Reduce to simmer and let cook until the lentils are tender. Add a large pinch of salt toward the end of cooking time.
- While the lentils are cooking, prep the butternut squash. Toss in the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes, until tender and browning.
- When the lentils are tender, drain them.
- Add the butternut squash and lentils to the couscous. Toss.
- Pour the dressing over the couscous while it is still warm. Toss.
- Add the pecans and grapes. Toss again.
- As long as the mixture is not hot (if it is, let it cool for a few minutes), add the parsley and blue cheese. Toss and taste for salt and pepper. Serve slightly warm or room temperature. Can also be made ahead and served cool.
- freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
- 2-3 T white balsamic vinegar to taste
- 2 pinches salt
- Several turns black pepper grinder
- 1 clove smashed garlic
- 1 T agave syrup or honey
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil to taste
- Place first 6 ingredients in a medium sized bowl, beginning with 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl while whisking briskly to emulsify. When it is all combined, taste for more vinegar or more oil (or even both if it is too lemony). Taste for salt, pepper and agave as well. Let the dressing sit for 5 minutes to allow the garlic to infuse the dressing.
- Whisk briefly before again before using. Don't forget to remove the garlic clove before using!
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