Frutti di Mare with Couscous

This is a light and delicate main-course that features fish, scallops, aromatics  with a touch of orange for sweetness and brightness.  A variety of fish and shellfish can be used to make this dish.  I used three locally-caught varieties that looked and smelled sweet and utterly fresh:  blackfish, skate and sea scallops.

Basically, you can use any firm, white fish, like striped bass or halibut, combined with a flaky, delicate fish, like flounder or fluke, combined with a shellfish, like shrimp, scallops, or lobster.

The beauty of this dish is that the sauce can be made hours ahead, then the seafood poached at the last moment.  The couscous gets added last, and the whole stew rests, covered, for 5 minutes, while the couscous steeps.  This is one-pot entertaining at its finest!

The only other last-minute preparation that remains is to toast some sliced country bread in the oven, drizzle with olive oil and heat the bowls for the stew (always heat plates for soup or stew).

Tonight, as a first-course for the seafood stew, I made a spring vegetable salad that deserved its own separate post (see below).

Frutti di Mare with Couscous

serves 6 – 8

1 lb blackfish (or striped bass or halibut)

1 lb skate wing (or flounder or fluke)

1 lb sea scallops (or shrimp or lobster)

1 bunch leeks, whites only, sliced into 1/4″ ribbons

2 shallots, sliced thinly

3 stalks celery, some leaves included, sliced crosswise into 1/4″ slices

1 bulb fennel, tops and outer layers removed, cored and sliced into 1/2″ pieces

2 tsps dried oregano

3 large bay leaves

2 tbls fresh chopped parsley

1 cup white wine

1 1/2 qts chicken broth

1 c tomato puree

zest and sections of one orange, seeds removed

1 c boiled, chopped kale (optional, but I had some leftover in the fridge, so I added it)

1 c instant couscous

1/4 c + 2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan on medium heat, combine 1/4 c oil with leeks, shallot, celery, bay leaves, oregano, half of parsley.

Saute, covered for about 10 minutes until vegetables soften and begin to caramelize.

Add wine and reduce for a minute.  Add tomatoes, orange zest and sections and broth.

Simmer for about 10 minutes, then taste and add salt and pepper.  May be made to this point up to 2 hours ahead.

Cut fish into bite-size pieces and set aside until ready to assemble stew.

When ready to serve, place the fish and seafood in the sauce and bring to a simmer.

Cover and simmer on low heat for about 5 – 7 minutes, until seafood begins to turn from translucent to white.  Add couscous, kale (if using) and remaining parsley, cover and turn off heat.

Allow to steep, covered, for about 5 minutes.

Serve in hot bowls with freshly toasted crostini drizzled with olive oil (drizzle on the oil after they’ve toasted, so as to preserve the raw flavor of the oil).

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