Sicily has it’s own ancient couscous traditions, and the islands version is distinct from North African ones. To start with it’s made with fish. Or specifically, fish broth. The couscous grains are steamed over water and then soaked in broth an hour or so, The dominant spices are cinnamon and bay leaves some cooks even line the basket of the couscous steamer with bay leaves. JEFF KOEHLER
Jeff’s favorite version of this dish came from a restaurant in Trapani called Cantina Siciliana. There it is served with a handful of calamari fritti- simply floured and fried. That is how I chose to present my version as well.
- 1 pound couscous (about 2 ½ cups)
- 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- peperoncino or red pepper flakes
- 4 plum tomatoes, peeld, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 2½ pounds soup fish, such as scorpin fish, roosterfish, grouper, or other firm-fleshed white fish
- 2 tablespoon tomato concentrate
- 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 three-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 7 cup water
- 1½ pound lightly floured and fried calamari rings (optional)
Prepare the couscous according to the instructions on the package.
Meanwhile, in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook it until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and some pinches of peperoncino and cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and mushy, about 20 minutes. Lay in the fish and stir to cover with the sauce. Add the tomato concentrate, parsley, cinnamon, and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
Strain the stock through a sieve, pressing out all the juices. Discard the solids and transfer the broth to a clean sauce pan. There should be 4 or 5 cups of broth; stir in water if necessary. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Caver and keep warm.
Place the couscous in a large, wide serving bowl. Pour 3 cups of the broth over it, stir with a fork, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Wrap in a kitchen towel and let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Just before serving, fluff the graons. Reheat the remaining broth and serve on the side. Top with the optional fried calamari if you like.