Couscous with beef and yellow squash

Today started with orders to get rid of the three giant yellow squash in the fridge. Most of what I found online fell into one of two groups: either slice and fry (boring) or make some casserole with hamburger and cheese. The three squash all pleaded for a different fate, and I was happy to deliver.

This is actually a variation on a recipe my lovely Aunt Clem taught me. Hers was somewhat bland, basically beef, chick peas, onions and the magic spice, turmeric.

I shook things up by adding the trio of tomato, green olives and almond, concentrating the tomato by baking, and roasting the couscous itself.

One of the big surprises was that Aunt Clem’s original recipe did not include allspice, which I had long assumed was called that because to my knowledge, it got put in everything. It seems that Arab Americans in my part of the world use it as a replacement for the mixture known as “seven spice.” (I have seen this as as paprika, pepper, cumin, cassia, cloves, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, but also seen it where allspice is part of the mix, which now seems like we are dividing by zero, but hey…)

Couscous with beef and yellow squash

Brown one pound of beef stew meat (either in that form, or something like shank, if it’s available) in a high-sided metal frying pan. Make sure to do this in small batches, and not overcrowd the pan, so the meat browns instead of steaming.

Add one large can crushed tomatoes, one small can of chick peas (drained and rinsed), one half cup whole green olives, juice of one lemon, and the spice mix: one tablespoon each of turmeric, allspice, and garlic powder. The olives will add enough salt, so there’s no need to add more.

Cut up three large yellow squash in to large pieces, and lay them over the top of the mixture. Add a handful of almonds, either whole or lightly crushed with the back of a cleaver. Make sure not to stir the squash or almonds into the tomato. We want them to cook on their own. Cover the pan and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Just before serving, prepare the couscous. You can follow the instructions on the box, or add a little flavor by toasting the dry couscous in a pan with a little olive oil and some cumin seeds. Then just add water as usual.

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