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Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Couscous With Spicy Seafood

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Whole wheat couscous is tiny pasta made from milled and steamed whole grains. Many people prefer whole wheat couscous to couscous made from semolina flour for its added health benefits and taste. Traditionally a North African and Middle Eastern food, its origin is vague but it is now eaten around the world. Couscous makes a great substitute for rice in dishes like stir fries and curries, and meat or vegetable stews.

Semolina flour is made by grinding the inner part of a grain of durum wheat, called the endosperm. It is used to make a wide variety of pastas. To make couscous, the semolina is rolled into pellets and dusted with flour, then sieved and rolled again until the pellets are about the size of a pinhead. Whole wheat couscous is made from wheat flour, in which the bran is not removed like processed white flour, thus keeping nutrients intact. In Africa and the Middle East, the whole grain may be milled and steamed as couscous, especially in rural villages, and cooks from Berbers to Libyans have variations in preparation and serving of the dish.

Couscous offers a high food value for little cost, packed with B vitamins and foliates. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest than processed ones because of their fiber content, and the protein in whole wheat couscous helps stave off hunger. In North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, it was traditionally made from millet, but now is usually semolina, wheat or barley. Whole grains are rich in phytosterols, which some studies show may lower levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Serves 8-10


3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

1-14 ounces can diced tomatoes in juice

3- 8 ounces bottles clam juice

1-1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed

12 littlenecks, scrubbed

1 cup dry white wine

3-1/2 cups plain couscous 

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

3 small bay leaves

2 pounds assorted fish filets, such as halibut, cod or red snapper, cut into ½ inch pieces

8 ounces uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined

Chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup hot chili paste


Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion; saute 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery and garlic; saute 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice and 1 bottles clam juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to processor. Blend to chunky puree; return to pot. Mix in 2 bottles clam juice to make tomato broth. Combine mussels, clams and wine in another pot. Cover and cook over high heat until mussels and clams open, about 8 minutes. Using tongs transfer mussels and clams to bowl (discard any that do not open). Strain cooking liquid into tomato broth. Place couscous in large bowl. Bring 2 ½ cups water, 3 cups tomato broth and ¼ cup oil to boil in medium saucepan. Mix into couscous. Cover; let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Adjust flavors with salt and black pepper to taste. Cover; let stand until ready to serve. Meanwhile, mix thyme and bay leaves into remaining tomato broth in pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add fish. Cover and simmer 4 minutes. Add shrimp; cover and simmer until seafood is opaque in center, about 4 minutes. Turn off heat. Add reserved mussels and clams. Cover; let stand 2 minutes. Arrange couscous on concave platter. Top with seafood. Spoon some tomato broth over to moisten. Sprinkle with parsley. Mix ¾ cup tomato broth and hot chili paste in small bowl. Serve couscous, passing chili mixture and remaining broth separately.


Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well."  Check out the Chef's website and blog.


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