Grilled Mussels With Simmered Tomatoes Over Couscous

Is it necessary, you may wonder, to go through the fuss of deseeding the tomatoes and reserving the juice in this recipe adapted from Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia (10 Speed Press 2009)? I think it would work OK if you didn't, but the tomatoes would have a sloppier texture and the flavor wouldn't penetrate the couscous as well. It would also be a bit stickier in the pan. On the whole, I think it's worth the effort.

Grilled Mussels With Simmered Tomatoes Over Couscous i
T. Susan Chang for NPR
Grilled Mussels With Simmered Tomatoes Over Couscous
T. Susan Chang for NPR

Makes 4 to 6 servings

8 tomatoes, quartered

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

5 sprigs fresh oregano

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups Israeli couscous

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 pounds mussels

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped for garnish

Position a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Holding the tomatoes over the strainer, scoop out the seeds, letting the juice and seeds fall into the strainer. Press the seeds with a ladle to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the seeds and set the juice aside. Halve the tomato quarters and set them aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and oregano. Add the wine and tomato juice and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Set the tomato mixture aside, covered.

Put the couscous in a saucepan with 1 teaspoon salt. Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil and pour it over the couscous. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let it rest, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then cover and set aside.

Just before cooking, clean the mussels. Gently tap any open shells against a countertop and wait a minute for the shell to close. If the shell stays open, the mussel is dead and must be discarded. Remove the little thistle of fiber, called the beard, that sticks out of the shell by yanking it toward the narrow end of the mussel. Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water and stir in a handful of salt. Soak the mussels in the water for 30 minutes, then lift them out, leaving the debris behind, and set them in a colander.

Heat a grill and place the mussels between the grates or atop a vegetable/shellfish grate. Grill until the mussels are open and cooked through, about 6 minutes.

To serve, put a scoop of couscous on a plate, followed by the tomatoes, then the mussels. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil. Garnish with the parsley.

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