Lamb and Apricot Pilaf
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup basmati rice
¾ pound ground lamb
1 small onion, diced
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
¼ cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
Lamb is one of my favorite meats and, it turns out, also one of the most warming foods, especially when stewed with spices like cinnamon and cumin.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the butternut squash, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt on a rimmed baking tray. Roast the squash for 17 to 20 minutes, stirring with a spoon halfway, until the squash is evenly golden on all sides. Strain and rinse the rice in a fine-mesh strainer.
In a large saucepan heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear the lamb, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon until cooked through. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, cooking until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, cumin, garlic, and bay leaf and cook for 1 minute or until the mixture is fragrant.
Add the rice to the pan and continuously stir, toasting the rice for 3 to 4 minutes. This process will prevent the rice from breaking and becoming gummy. Add the stock, making sure the rice is completely covered without stirring. Place the apricots on top.
Dampen a large kitchen towel and place over the pot. Seal the pot with a lid and pull the sides of the towel up over the lid. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture, without opening, for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and steam for an additional 15 minutes.
While the pilaf simmers, combine the Greek yogurt and cumin and allow the flavors to marry for at least 5 minutes. Remove the lid from the pot and add the parsley, lemon juice, pine nuts, and butternut squash. Fluff with a fork and serve while hot. Garnish with the cumin yogurt.