Although Sicilian-style couscous uses the North African variety, this version uses Sardinian couscous, which is called Fregola Sarda. Fregola sarda is a larger variety, and also toasted in its production process, which accounts for its darker coloring and nutty flavor. There are three parts to this dish: making the fish broth, cooking the vegetables, and preparing the "short" pesto. Feel free to variate the vegetables according to the season, and to combine oily and flaky fish in making the broth. It is quite hearty, but full of healthy ingredients, making it perfectly satisfactory on all levels.
1 yellow onion, small dice
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig oregano or thyme
2 medium tomatoes, medium dice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chicken broth in powder
6 cups water
1 ½ lbs fresh sea bass or another white- fleshed fish, cut in 2 inch pieces
Half a dozen shrimp
½ lb scallops, foot removed and quartered
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh basil
½ cup Italian parsley
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ lemon, juiced
Couscous and Vegetables:
1 500g package fregola sarda
2 zucchini, small dice
1 yukon gold potato, small dice
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, and cut in small dice
½ fennel bulb, small dice
1 preserved lemon, minced (optional)
In a large pot, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and sweat until translucent. Add the fish, celery, bay leaf, oregano, tomatoes, and tomato paste.
Sprinkle over the chicken broth and cover with 6 cups water. If using broth, just cover with the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. While the fish is simmering and creating its broth, shell the shrimp and add the shells to the broth.
Reserve the shrimp and scallops for later.
Meanwhile, blanch the potato, zucchini, and fennel (each separate from the other) in a pot of boiling water.
Drain and combine all together in a bowl.
Make the pesto by grinding all of the ingredients together in a small blender or food processor. Season well with salt.
After about 30 minutes, remove the fish pieces from the broth and set aside on a plate. Season with salt and pepper. Strain the broth into a bowl and transfer back to the pot. Bring to a boil and add the fregola sarda. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through but with a slight bite. Season the shrimp and scallops and add to the pot (the liquid should still be at a light simmer). Add the blanched vegetables, red pepper, preserved lemon, pesto, and reserved fish.
Gently stir the pot and ladle into bowls, distributing the fish, couscous, and broth evenly.
Serve with toasted bread.
Serves 8 people.