COUSCOUS SICILIANA

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COUSCOUS SICILIANAEvery year, the Sicilian city of Trapani hosts a couscous festival, a sort of cook-off by the sea. It was during that event one year that I fell in love with a version of this dish, which marries a traditional couscous, enlivened with almonds, raisins, and parsley, with a tangy shrimp ragù. Cinnamon might seem an unusual ingredient in an Italian recipe, but it shows the influence of Moroccan cuisine on the region.

  • Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 large Spanish onion, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and minced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Splash of dry white wine
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato puree, preferably Italian San Marzano or organic
  • 2½ cups Seafood Stock (made with the shells from the shrimp rather
  • than fish bones or lobster bodies)
  • 1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled (shells reserved for the stock) and deveined
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • ½ cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and drained
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
How to Make It
  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil and tip and tilt the pan to coat it, heating the oil until it is shimmering and almost smoking. Add the garlic, onions, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add 1 cinnamon stick, the red pepper flakes, and wine and bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomato puree and 1 cup of the stock, bring the liquid to a simmer, and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add them to the pan, using a wooden spoon to submerge them, and cook until firm and pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm.
  4. Meanwhile, make the couscous: Bring the remaining 1½ cups stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Put the couscous and the remaining cinnamon stick in a medium heatproof bowl, drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  5. When the stock comes to a boil, pour it over the couscous and stir to incorporate. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and let stand until the couscous has absorbed the stock, about 7 minutes. Remove the towel and plastic wrap and fluff the couscous with a fork. Stir in the almonds, raisins, and parsley.
  6. Stir the basil into the sauce. Spoon some couscous into the center of each of 4 dinner plates and top with the shrimp and tomato sauce. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.
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