Friday, February 25, 2011

Couscous alla Trapanese con Pesce y Calamari

This recipe is based upon a recipe by Chef Giuliano Bugialli, who wrote a cookbook of recipes from the Italian islands, like Sardinia and Sicily.  Couscous is an ingredient in Sicilian cooking, particularly in Trapani, which is both a city and a province in Western Sicily.  Trapani is near North Africa and, hundreds of years ago, Arabs ruled over this part of the island.  The Arabs brought, among other things, couscous.  Today, the couscous used in Sicilian cooking is usually Moroccan couscous rather than Israeli couscous.  In Trapani, couscous is made with fish, rather than with meat as it is in Northern Africa.

This is one of two couscous recipes that are being posted.  This recipe focuses on the use of fish and calamari, in the traditional Trapanese style.  This recipe is substantially revised from Chef Bugialli's recipe, primarily to make it easier to make.  One major revision is that the couscous is toasted in butter first.  This helps to develop the flavor of the couscous.  Another major revision is the use of canned tomatoes over fresh tomatoes, because they are easier to use and the puree that comes with the canned tomatoes can help to thicken the sauce.  (For those who like thicker sauces, you can add more puree.)  

Adapted from Chef Giuliano Bugialli
Serves 6-10

Ingredients for the Sauce:
1 large red onion
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds of canned, whole tomatoes, seeded and
     cut into large pieces, with puree
1 large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
20 sprigs of flat leaf parsley, leaves only
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled
10 very large fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
3 cups of seafood stock

Ingredients for the Fish and Calamari:
3 pounds of fish
1 pound of calamari, heads and bodies, cleaned
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the Couscous:
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 cups of couscous
1 cup of water
1 cup of seafood stock
1 pinch of saffron
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. First begin preparing the sauce by heating the oil in a large saute pan.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute for five minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while.  Season with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes.

2.  Finely chop the parsley and garlic together.  Add the chopped ingredients and the whole basil leaves to the saute pan and mix very well.  Cook for 5 minutes more.  Dissolve the tomato paste in the broth and pour it into the casserole.  Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour.

3.  Now prepare the couscous.  Heat the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat.  When the foaming subsides, add the saffron and couscous and cook, stirring frequently until the grains are beginning to brown, about five minutes.  Add water, broth and salt, stirring briefly to combine.  Cover and remove pan from heat.  Let stand until grains are tender, about seven minutes.  Uncover and fluff grains with fork.  Season with ground pepper to taste.

4.  Taste the sauce for seasoning.  Start adding the fish.  Cook the fish for a few minutes and then add the calamari.

5.  Transfer the couscous to a platter, pour the sauce over the couscous and arrange the fish and calamari on top or on the side.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Serve hot.



carol said...

I found this quite difficult to adapt to a recipe for 2-4 servings and I don't want to re-heat leftovers. Any advice?
Also, saffron is mentioned in the recipe for the sauce and for the couscous but is only included in the recipe for the couscous? Was this a typo? Saffron is too expensive to use unnecessarily.

Keith Bolek said...

Thank you for your post. The reference to saffron for the sauce is a typo. There should not be any saffron in the sauce. It is used only in the couscous. As for adapting the recipe to 2-4 servings, that is difficult to do. When I made this recipe, I adapted it from a recipe by Giuliano Bugialli that actually called for a lot more than in this recipe. When I try to downsize a recipe for large groups, I focus first on the amount of protein per person. For 2-4 people, you want 1 to 2 pounds of fish and 1/2 to 1 pound of calamari. I would cut the couscous in 1/2, making only 1 cup instead of 2. I would also cut the sauce recipe in half. I hope this helps. Keith

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