Moroccan spiced chicken and pomegranate salad with butternut squash and couscous 
12.20.2012
Lisa McDonnell

 

Don't forget to feed your body and your soul this season with healthful, colorful and delicious food.  There is so much in the way of cookies and treats (I love them too) this time of year but try to remember that which is good for you.

Pomegranates are an ancient fruit rich in history, art, religion, myth and medicine.  Native to Iran, this fruit grown on a small bushy tree, is used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking.  King Tut and other Egyptians were buried with pomegranates in hopes of a second life.  They are mentioned in Homer's Odyssey and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  Pomegranates are mentioned in the Bible when Moses tells the Israelites they are going to a land of pomegranates (among other things) and paintings often portray the Virgin Mary or the baby Jesus holding a pomegranate.  

 

 

"The Madonna of the Pomegranate" painted by the Italian Renaissance master, Sandro Botticelli, hangs in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy.

Pomegranates have obtained celebrity status recently due to their healthful benefits.  They are loaded with antioxidants, folic acid, vitamins, iron and potassium.  Scientists believe they may help with heart disease, cancer, and aging problems.    

It is simple to extract the ruby jewels of the pomegranate fruit if you know the right technique.  First, cut them in half.  Then place the the cut side of the fruit in the palm of your clean hand with your fingers spread wide apart.  With a large spoon, bang on the back side of the fruit over and over again, releasing the seeds through your fingers.  They start to fall right out after a couple good smacks from your spoon.  

So, enjoy this bejeweled, colorful and healthful fruit rich in history,  somewhere in your holiday menu.  

 

 

My salad is posing in front of my small kitchen Christmas tree, adorned with food ornaments.

 

Peace on Earth.  That is my Christmas wish, peace on earth.  

 

Moroccan Spiced Chicken and Pomegranate Salad with Butternut Squash and Couscous

1 cup couscous

the seeds from one pomegranate, see instructions above

1 small butternut squash, cubed 

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Ras el Hanout - Moroccan spice blend - see below

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted 

1/2 a bunch of cilantro for garnish

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil + more for roasting chicken and squash

salt and pepper to taste

Take half of the Ras el Hanout and mix it with 2 tablespoons olive oil to form a paste.  Rub all the chicken breasts with the paste and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven, until the chicken is just cooked through but still tender and moist.  Let cool and then slice into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Toss the butternut squash with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the Ras el Hanout.  Roast on a foil lined baking sheet for 1/2 hour in a 400 degree oven, until tender.  Stir once 1/2 way through.

pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over 1 cup couscous, cover and let sit for 10 minutes

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Spoon onto a large serving platter and garnish with the cilantro and serve.

 

Ras el Hanout - Moroccan spice blend

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.

 

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