The first time I tasted maftoul, I couldn’t have been happier. I am not a fan of regular couscous, particularly because of the texture. However, maftoul is actually small bits of wheat, that are sun-dried, and then rolled and coated with a flour mixture, making it more similar to pasta than a grain. It has a nice soft bite to it that holds up well in salads or as a main dish. It is almost like an Arab version of pasta, well…kinda, but you get my point.
Anyway, much to my delight, this year my favorite food store in the United States, Williams-Sonoma, began selling maftoul! And this isn’t just any maftoul, this is hand-crafted, certified organic maftoul made in a women’s co-op in Palestine. AMAZING!
Caanan Fair Trade supports local farmer’s in Palestine, by “empowering marginalized Palestinian rural communities caught in conflict, so they can sustain their livelihoods and culture.” What a great philosophy and company, and what is even better is that they working hard to RE-establish the historic and traditional sustainable farming techniques for Palestinian farmers so that they can earn their livelihood. Not only should everyone run to Williams-Sonoma to buy up their maftoul to support these farmers, but strongly encourage them and others to carry Caanan’s other amazing products. (For more about the company, check out their website and this Bloomberg Businessweek article.)
So, in the Arab world, maftoul is usually served as a savory main course, prepared with a lot of spices, sometimes with tomato sauce, and often times with chicken. However, I decided to make a light side salad that combines both savory and sweet ingredients. Instead of traditional Middle Eastern flavors, I borrowed a bit of far Eastern flavor, by using an Indian garam masala mix to contrast to the sweet flavors of the currants and cranberries. This salatat maftoul is perfect for the holidays, as it combines warm earthy flavors with the seasonal butternut squash. It is great served chilled, as the flavors intensify in the refrigerator. This recipe can also easily be vegetarian by substituting the chicken broth for your favorite vegetable broth.Curried Maftoul Salad with Butternut Squash (Salatat Maftoul)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
- 3 cups of maftoul
- 4 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- 3 cups of diced butternut squash (approx. 1 whole butternut squash)
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup currants
- 1/4 toasted pine nuts
- salt and pepper
(1) In a pot, combine the maftoul with 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover for 15 minutes. Add a pinch of salt if the broth is low sodium. Once cooked, set aside. You will know it is cooked once the broth is absorbed and there is no longer a “bite” to the little pearls of maftoul.
(2) Prepare the other ingredients (i.e., chop the butternut squash, toast the pine nuts, etc.) while your maftoul is cooking.
(3) In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the diced butternut squash, curry, and garam masala. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute and mix well.
(4) Once the butternut squash is soft, add the cooked maftoul, cranberries, currants, and pine nuts. Mix well. Remove from heat.
(5) Once the salad has cooled, place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled. Top with freshly toasted pine nuts or almonds, as desired.