While staying with friends last week, I wanted to extend my thanks by cooking them dinner. I decided on an easy summer meal of quickly-cooked scallops over a couscous salad featuring tomatoes, corn, peppers, and basil. This is a relatively sweat-free dinner, as scallops only take a few minutes to cook on each side in olive oil in a hot pan, until lightly browned. And couscous! It's so amazingly speedy that I don't know why I ignored it all these years, especially since you can also find whole grain durum varieties.
I had some awesome sweet and tender scallops from Pura Vida Fisheries (found at Union Square Greenmarket on Fridays) earlier in July, so this dish was inspired by my craving for more of that. Unfortunately the market was already sold out of scallops this time around, so I bought a bag of frozen scallops from Whole Foods. The frozen ones were passable, but were nowhere near achieving that same taste. Despite letting the thawed scallops drain beforehand, they released too much water during the cooking process to brown quickly and ended up on the tough side. Now I know for next time it's only worth it if I can get scallops fresh from Long Island. Plan on approximately a quarter pound of scallops per serving.
Before preparing the scallops, get the corn started: bring a large pot of water to boil, shuck corn, add to pot and let boil for approximately five minutes. Use tongs to remove corn from pot and set aside. After corn has cooled, run a knife along the cob to cut off the corn kernels.
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of 1 1/4 cup of water to boil with a splash of olive oil and salt. Stir 1 cup of couscous into the water, remove from heat, let rest covered for five minutes, and then fluff with a fork.
Dice tomatoes and peppers. Pick a handful of basil or other herbs such as parsley and chiffonade herbs into tiny strips.
Combine vegetables and couscous in a large bowl. Serve a few scallops atop each plate of couscous. Makes approximately five small servings. We complemented this meal with a lovely salad prepared by one of my friends, and they claimed it was one of the best meals ever shared in their home.