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Scallops and Couscous

October 13, 2009

Scallops and Couscous

New England made a permanent impression on me, as evidenced by my linguistic and culinary relationship with scallops. Before moving to Boston, I had never eaten a scallop. I had no interest in scallops. As you can probably tell by the near complete lack of seafood recipes on this site, I’m not much of a fish eater, though I do continually vow to introduce it into my diet more often. And I thought scallops were some of the grossest of the gross in the aquatic world. They just looked like slimy blobs, and who wants to eat slimy blobs? Well, thanks to Boston’s seafood-heavy culture, and to Mr. X, I now want to eat slimy blobs, as long as those slimy blobs are scallops.

And yes, I cannot help myself from pronouncing this word as “scaw-lops,” in true New England fashion. And for this I blame one of my favorite library school professors, who had an old school Cantabrigian (as in, Massachusetts) accent, and liked to use scallops as an example in data modeling lessons, for reasons I will never really know.

Scallops are terrific when you’re cooking for one, because you can ask the lovely folks at the fish counter to give you only a quarter pound or so, and you will have just enough for you. They are easy and quick, and can be paired with just about anything. I ate these tasty blobs with tarted up couscous, which I cooked with shallots, garlic, carrots, pecans, and basil. The pecans were an inspired choice—inspired by the fact that the grocery store was out of pine nuts. But I have to say the pecans were really the way to go. Saltier, more textured, and much better, I suspect, than the pine nuts would have been. Yes, this one is a keeper.

Scallops and Couscous

The trickiest thing about cooking scallops is knowing when to flip them. They only need a quick sear in a very hot pan, but if you try to flip them too soon, they will fall apart on you. They don’t look as pretty in pieces, let me tell you. The best way to deal with this difficulty is with caution: Give them at least two minutes before you even try to flip, then, very gently, try to lift them with tongs, or gently try to slide a spatula under them to flip. If they are at all sticking to the pan, let them be for another minute or so. Scallops really only need a few minutes on each side, tops, and this couscous only takes about 10 or 15 minutes, so you’ll be eating dinner faster than you can say “Back off, Rachel Ray.”

Scallops and Couscous

Scallops and Couscous

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 carrot, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c. couscous
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans
  • 2/3 to 3/4 c. vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 to 1/3 lb. scallops
  • salt and pepper
  • a small handful of sliced fresh basil or parsley

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic, and saute for about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the carrots, and saute for another 3 minutes or so. If you’d like the carrots to be less crunchy, cover the saucepan and let the carrots steam for a few minutes. Then stir in the couscous and the broth, remove from the heat, and let sit for about five minutes.

While the couscous is sitting and soaking up the delicious broth, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Season the scallops with a bit of salt and pepper. When the oil is very hot, add the scallops. Leave them untouched to cook for at least two minutes before testing to see if they’re ready to be flipped. When they release easily from the pan, flip them over and give them another two or three minutes. You want them to be just slightly browned on the outside, but not too firm or they will be tough.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the pecans, and a bit of salt to taste. Serve the scallops on top of the couscous, and sprinkle some fresh basil or parsley over it all. Delicious.

And this has nothing to do with scallops, but I have to share. I’m so excited that I finally managed to produce a decent loaf of bread here in Walla Walla:

Finally, a non-sucky loaf of bread

Ever since I moved here, my bread has been turning out dense and flat and heavy and just plain bad. I didn’t know what was going on, I worried that my starter had died on its cross-country trek, that the air was inhibiting the action of my yeast, that I had bought bad yeast. Honestly, I’m a pretty novice bread baker, so I really had no idea what could be going on. But eventually, I figured it was probably just psycho-somatic, and once I got over myself, I managed to turn out a halfway decent loaf. Thank goodness.

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