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