Butternut Squash, Tomato and Chickpea Ragout with Kale and Couscous

Butternut Squash Couscous

The heat of chile, spices of North Africa and earthiness of kale beautifully complement sweet butternut squash in this hearty ragout. Bright, rich and healthy, this recipe is easily prepared in 30 minutes making it a delicious option for a weeknight. If you prefer an even richer stew, Italian sausage or chorizo may be added.  Most likely, however, you will find that the meatless version is substantial and satisfying enough to win over any carnivore. Be sure to serve the ragout with couscous to soak up the liquid.

Butternut Squash, Tomato and Chickpea Ragout with Kale and Couscous
Serves 4 to 6.

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 red jalapeno or serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut in 3/4 inch cubes – about 4 cups
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
1 (14-ounce) can crushed plum tomatoes with juice
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cups kale leaves, tough stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
2 cups couscous

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a deep sauté pan or stock pot. Add onion and sauté until beginning to soften, 2 minutes. Add garlic and chiles and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add butternut squash and dry spices; sauté 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups chicken stock and tomatoes with juices. (The squash should be just covered with liquid. Add extra chicken stock if necessary.) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash is tender but firm, 15-20 minutes. Add chickpeas and 1 teaspoon salt. Continue to simmer, 10 minutes. Stir in kale and simmer until leaves are wilted and bright green, 2 minutes.
While the ragout is simmering bring 2 cups chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.
To serve, spoon couscous into a bowl or shallow plate, leaving a well in the center. Ladle ragout into the center. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley leaves.

To prepare with sausage: As a first step, slice 8 ounces hot Italian sausage or chorizo into 1/2 inch pieces. Sauté in deep sauté pan until golden brown on all sides. Transfer sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon rendered fat. Add onion and proceed with instructions above, substituting the sausage fat for the olive oil. Return sausage to the ragout with the chickpeas.

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