Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall Grain Bowl with Butternut Squash

With the summer bounty of fresh produce quickly diminishing and available crops turning to things like squash and apples, dishes with lots of butter, cream and cheese suddenly start to appear in cooking magazines. Fall dishes thus seem "heavier" than the summer ones that came before. While delicious, if you eat like that too much you'll gain your winter weight before Thanksgiving.

But fall produce doesn't have to be drowned in dairy fat. Squash, for example, is wonderful on its own as well as a versatile partner for many types of dishes. Here, I've given it a leading role in a grain bowl made with bulgur, a dish I like because it's: 1) easy, 2) loaded with fall flavor, and 3) not "heavy" like a lot of fall dishes.

In selecting ingredients for this dish, I thought about making a Tabbouleh with fall flavors, first incorporating elements of the Zuni Cafe bread salad that I so love, then adding the unmistakable fall flavors of butternut squash and sage.

Fall Grain Bowl with Butternut Squash

1 tbsp. dried currants
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. water
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, to taste
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup bulgur wheat
3/4 lb. chicken breast cutlets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
4 scallions, white end chopped with a little bit of the green part
2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 oz. (about 2 cups) baby arugula leaves
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar

1. In a small bowl, combine dried currants with red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp. of water. Set aside to plump as you prepare the other ingredients.

2. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, toss squash with 1 tbsp. olive oil and kosher salt (to taste), then spread in an even layer on a baking sheet that is nonstick or lined with foil or parchment. Bake until the squash is soft, about 30 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool a bit then add to a large bowl.

3. Bring chicken stock to boil in a 2-quart saucepan with a lid. Remove from heat, add bulgur wheat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and add the cooked bulgur to the large bowl with the squash.

4. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium frying pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste and add to the pan. Cook chicken about 10 minutes until no longer pink inside, turning over about halfway through. Remove from pan, allow to cool a bit, then chop and add to the large bowl with the squash and bulgur.

5. Heat a small (8-inch) frying pan over medium-low heat. Toast pine nuts in pan until fragrant and lightly browned (doesn't take long, watch carefully and keep nuts moving to avoid burning). Remove from pan and add to large bowl. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to pan. Add sliced garlic and chopped scallions and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add to large bowl. Drain currants and add to the large bowl, along with the chopped sage and arugula.

6. Whisk together the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil and the white wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper, pour over ingredients in the large bowl and toss to combine. Serve in bowls.


  1. I really like this dish, especially how it draws upon the Zuni Cafe bread salad. But I wonder if you should come up with a more exciting name. Maybe "Fabulous Fall Flavor Bowl with Super Squash and Great Grains"?

    1. I'm glad you like it, but I think I should keep the name simple. Originally it was just "Fall Grain Bowl," but I decided that wasn't descriptive enough.