Of the many delicious winter squashes coming into the market this season, Delicata is one that is often overlooked in favor of the more familiar varieties like Butternut, Acorn, Hubbard, etc. Look closer though, because Delicatas have beautiful yellow-gold colored flesh and, unlike most winter squashes, their handsome striated skin is edible – which means no difficult and perilous peeling!
You can prepare Delicata squash any number of ways: boiling, baking, steaming, stir-frying, etc. This recipe showcases its lush flavor in a fragrant ‘stew’ of spiced lamb meatballs, tomatoes, and crisp apples served over quick-cooking couscous.
In addition, exotic flavors like smoked paprika, preserved lemons, and pomegranate molasses add a unique character to this warming autumn meal.
(Note: you could add garlic to this dish (since it has a natural affinity for lamb), but in this case I think it’s more subtle and balanced without it.)
Here’s how to make the Lamb Meatball Stew With Delicata Squash and Lemon Couscous:
1 lb ground lamb
3 Tbsp minced shallots
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium Delicata squash (about 1 1/4 lb), seeded, quartered, and cut in 1/4 inch slices (see Cook’s Notes below)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (add a pinch of salt if using low sodium broth)
1 small preserved lemon, rinsed and diced (about 1+ Tbsp) (See Cook’s Notes)
1/2 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups fine-grained couscous
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (See Cook’s Notes)
1 medium Fuji apple, peeled, seeded, and chopped (toss with a splash of lemon or lime juice to preserve color)
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
Combine the first seven ingredients (lamb through cayenne) in a bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly. Form into mini-meatballs (about the size of a cherry tomato) and cook over medium heat until lightly browned and cooked through (about 5-7 minutes). Set aside.
Saute the squash and onions in oil with the salt until the squash is tender, but still slightly firm (about 10 minutes). Keep warm.
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan. Add the preserved lemon, black pepper, and couscous. Stir quickly, cover and allow to sit according to package directions (usually 5 minutes).
Re-heat the meatballs with the chopped tomatoes. Pour the pan juices off into a bowl and mix with the pomegranate molasses.
To serve, fluff the couscous with a fork and mound on a platter or on four individual plates. Make a well in the center. Top with the squash/onion mixture, chopped apples, and meatballs. Drizzle with the pomegranate sauce and sprinkle with chopped cilantro (if desired). Serves 4
Split the squash lengthwise, scoop out seeds and fibers with a spoon then cut each half again lengthwise before slicing.
Preserved lemons and pomegranate molasses are two ‘secret weapon’ ingredients that really add an indescribable something to dishes like this. Both can be found at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern groceries or online.
Preserved lemons come brine-packed in jars; if you can’t find them, you can make your own ahead of time (it’s really easy) or substitute 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel in this recipe. A good substitute for pomegranate molasses is pure pomegranate juice cooked down slowly over low heat until thickened to a syrup.
Please join us tomorrow to read our newest daily food and cooking article, a delicious recipe for Bacon Macadamia Cinnamon Rolls.
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