Pascale’s kitchen: Unique meals for post-holiday routine

After a full month of holiday meals, it's time for routine foods: butternut squash filled with couscous, herbs and pomegranate seeds, and filo dough stuffed with sautéed chicken and vegetables.

 Butternut squash stuffed with herbs, couscous and pomegranate seeds. (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Butternut squash stuffed with herbs, couscous and pomegranate seeds.
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Now that we’ve gotten through a full month of intensive holiday meals, it’s time to get back to our cherished routines and prepare meals that are quick, easy and, of course, tasty. 

This week I’m bringing you two starter dishes that look appetizing and taste delicious, as well as one main dish that is cooked over low heat for a few hours and is perfect for serving on a cool fall evening. 

The first dish is butternut squash filled with couscous, herbs and pomegranate seeds. Normally, I would recommend preparing traditional homemade couscous, but in an effort to cut down on prep time, I suggest using instant couscous which takes only five minutes to make. It’s important to use small butternut squashes for this recipe, or acorn squash if you prefer. 

The second starter is filo dough surprise packages that are filled with sautéed chicken and vegetables. Just pinch the top edges of the filo dough after adding the filling, or tie the corners together with baking string. If this is your first time baking with filo dough, you can bake the packages in a muffin dish, which will prevent them from opening up and letting the filling or liquid spill out. 

Alternatively, you can add the filling, and then roll out the dough into a cigar shape, or wrap them up like egg rolls. If you’re using filo dough squares, but you want to make mini bowl-shaped pastries, you can take a glass and cut out a circle of dough. And don’t forget to spray each layer with oil spray before adding the filling.

The main dish that appears below is a special slow-cook stew made with beef, chickpeas and pumpkin, which is wonderful served with couscous or rice.

I chose this recipe since it is so quick and simple and doesn’t involve many steps. All you have to do is add the ingredients to a pot and let it cook very slowly. The sauce will slowly thicken, and the aroma in your house will smell absolutely heavenly. 

BUTTERNUT SQUASH FILLED WITH COUSCOUS, HERBS AND POMEGRANATE SEEDSMakes 6 servings.

  Butternut squash stuffed with herbs, couscous and pomegranate seeds. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Butternut squash stuffed with herbs, couscous and pomegranate seeds. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

3 small butternut squashOlive oil6 thyme sprigsKosher salt, to taste

Filling: 2 cups whole wheat couscous, prepared according to directions1¼ cups water½ bunch of parsley, chopped finely½ bunch of mint, chopped finely½ bunch of cilantro, chopped finely4 scallions, chopped finely50 gr. cranberries or pomegranate seeds50 gr. light raisins4 Tbsp. olive oil1 Tbsp. pomegranate juice or cherry syrupJuice from 1 lemonSalt and pepper, to tasteHandful of roasted almonds or walnuts

TiPascale: Use the smallest butternut squashes you can find. You can also use acorn squash or kohlrabi. 

Wash the squashes, slice them in half lengthwise and remove all the fibers and seeds. Rinse well. 

Line a tray with baking paper. Arrange the squash halves on the tray and brush them generously with olive oil. Sprinkle them with thyme leaves and kosher salt. 

Bake them in an oven that is heated to 190° for 30-40 minutes or until the squashes have softened. Turn them over about 10 minutes before they’ve finished cooking. Remove them from the oven and let them cool slightly. 

Prepare the whole wheat couscous according to the directions and then transfer to a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Fill the squash halves with the couscous mixture. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 1 hour.Status: Parve.

FILO DOUGH SURPRISE PACKAGESMakes 12 small bags.

 Filo dough stuffed with sautéed chicken and vegetables. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Filo dough stuffed with sautéed chicken and vegetables. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Filling:3 Tbsp. olive oil1 large onion, sliced200 gr. chicken breast, sliced thinly1 carrot, sliced thinly1 green pepper, sliced thinly1 red pepper, sliced thinly¼ head of cabbage, sliced thinly5 cloves garlic, crushed1 tsp. fresh ginger, chopped1 Tbsp. honey2 Tbsp. soy saucePinch of crushed chili peppersSalt and pepper, to taste24 sheets filo doughOil spray 

TiPascale: If you have extra filling left over, you can freeze it for future use. You can also use the filling wrapped inside dough or served as a salad. 

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until it turns golden brown. Add the chicken pieces and fry them for 8 minutes until they’re cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a bowl.

Add oil to the pan and sauté the vegetables. Pour the chicken pieces back into the pan and add the rest of the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Cut each sheet of filo dough into 4 pieces. Place a piece of filo dough on your work surface and spray it lightly with oil spray. Then place another layer of filo dough on top of it. 

Spray a muffin pan and line each cavity with a double layer of filo dough. Place a spoonful or two of filling on the filo dough and seal the sides of the filo dough together above the filling. Prepare the rest of the packages in the same way. Spray oil on top of the packages and put them in an oven that has been preheated to 180°-190° for 20 minutes. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 1 hour.Status: Meat.

BEEF, CHICKPEAS AND PUMPKIN STEWMakes 6-8 servings. 

 Beef, chicken and pumpkin stew. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Beef, chicken and pumpkin stew. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

4 Tbsp. canola oil1 large onion, chopped600 gr. beef shoulder, cut into medium pieces2 carrots, cut into small pieces1 large tomato, cubed5-6 Tbsp. tomato paste5 cloves garlic, crushed1 stick cinnamon1 Tbsp. sweet paprika½ tsp. spicy paprika1 tsp. cumin1 Tbsp. chicken soup powderSalt and pepper, to taste4 cups water1 cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight and then drained (or frozen)300 gr. pumpkin, cubed6 potatoes, cubed (or 8 small potatoes, whole)

TiPascale: You can add roasted hazelnuts or pistachios for a richer flavor. 

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion until it becomes translucent. Add the meat and sauté, stirring around constantly, until the meat turns gray. Add the carrots and sauté another 3 minutes. 

Add the tomato, tomato paste, garlic, cinnamon, spices and water. Mix and cook covered for 30 minutes. 

Add the chickpeas and cook for another 25 minutes. Add the pumpkin and potatoes and cook over a low flame for another 35-45 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with couscous or rice. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 2 hours.Status: Meat.

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Translated by Hannah Hochner.