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.