Although the granules look like grains, couscous is actually tiny pasta made from a type of wheat called semolina. Unlike other pastas, which are mixed with water and eggs into sheets, couscous is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until minuscule pieces are formed. The couscous is then dried and later cooked in boiling water.
Israeli couscous is also a type of pasta but consists of granules that are much larger – about the size of small pearls. Made from wheat flour and semolina, Israeli couscous has a ball-like shape and is toasted, rather than dried, after the granules are formed. This process gives Israeli couscous a nuttier flavor and chewy bite that adds an unexpected touch to regional recipes.
Mediterranean Scallops Over Couscous
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling on the finished dish
Half a sweet onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of crumbled saffron threads
1/2 cup Israeli couscous
13-14 oz container no-salt-added diced Italian tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup vegetable broth
10 ounces bay scallops, tough side muscle removed
1/3 cup frozen peas
2 lemon wedges
Heat oil in a medium covered skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and saffron; cook for 20 seconds. Add couscous and cook over medium-high, stirring constantly, until toasted, about 3-4 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and tomatoes, bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the couscous is tender.
Increase the heat to medium, stir in peas and scallops; cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes or until the scallops are just cooked through. (If the scallops are not all the same size, place the larger scallops in the pan first, wait several seconds and then add the smaller ones).
Drizzle with olive oil, top with chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.