Scallops With Israeli Couscous

by katie

The original version of this recipe appeared in Martha Stewart Living ages ago.  I think they’ve re-run it since then, and it is also available on Martha’s website here.  I’ve made it dozens of times with excellent results.  Even though it is a hearty dish, the tomatoes and lemon give it a fresh taste that makes it a year-round favorite in our house.  When I stopped eating chicken, I really missed it.  A pescetarian variation was in order.  I tried the dish with scallops last night and was pretty satisfied with the results.

First, you toast about a cup of Israeli couscous in olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Once it is golden brown, move it to a bowl and set aside while you cook the scallops.  Israeli couscous, also called pearl pasta, is bigger than regular couscous and has more of a pasta quality.

One of the keys to this dish is the crust on the bottom of the pan that comes from browning the chicken.  That’s why I picked scallops for my variation.  When you sear scallops, you get the same brown crust.  The flavor is not quite as intense as the chicken, but is certainly a reasonable substitute.

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Critical crust development in progress.

I struggled with searing scallops for the longest time because I was too scared to get the pan hot enough.  Don’t be scared.  You have to get it really hot.  I dried the scallops well with a paper towel first, salted and peppered them, and then placed them gently in the pan.  The pan had been heating up with some olive oil in it on medium high/high for a couple of minutes.  I left them alone in the pan for about a minute without touching them.  Then I went around the pan to see if any were ready to flip.  You know they are ready when they release from the pan without too much effort.  I cooked them on the other side for about a minute more, and then removed them to a plate to hang out while I finished the rest of the dish.

I put the pan with the scallop crust back over medium heat, added a little bit more olive oil, and sauteed the onions, garlic, and tomatoes until the tomatoes started to break down.  I added the lemon and saffron at that point.  The juice from the fresh tomatoes helps deglaze the pan, releasing all the brown crusty goodness into the sauce.

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Steamy!

Once the vegetables were soft, I added the couscous back to the pan along with two cups of stock.  You can use chicken or vegetable.  If I’d had a bottle of white wine open, I would have added half a cup of that in place of half a cup of the stock.  But I didn’t, and it was fine.  I covered the pan, lowered the heat to a simmer, and let the couscous cook for about 12 minutes.  Once the couscous was done, I added a cup of frozen peas straight from the freezer.

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Once the peas were heated through, I put the scallops back in the pan to warm them up.

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Then it was time to eat!  My favorite part.  Overall, I could tell a difference between the chicken and scallop versions, but was very happy with how the scallop variation turned out.  I’m excited to have a favorite one-pan meal back in the regular rotation.

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