On Friday, I drove to Cape May for the last time this summer—an exciting, but bittersweet sign that summer was drawing to a close. This weekend was also a bit more special than some others because my younger sister and my 19 month old nephew—plus my 19 year old nephew—were all there at my mom’s for the weekend. Once again, when we arrived in Cape May, we immediately began to discuss what to do about dinner—and of course, I told them that I had to cook. I read them a few options from Cooking Light 2014—and we settled on “Clams with Israeli Couscous.” But, because my mom doesn’t actually like steamed clams, I also decided to add shrimp and scallops to the recipe, kind of like a “paella” minus the sausage and the rice.
Once again, I picked a recipe that had at least one ingredient that I had never worked with before—fennel. As I headed to Acme, I thought I knew what fennel looked like (a bulbous root), but when I arrived at the store, and found the vegetable was actually “Anise,” I was thoroughly confused. My confusion only grew when I asked the person stocking the produce if they had fennel, and he stared at my blankly and said he had no idea what that was. Thankfully, I had the sudden thought to google “substitute for fennel,” as the first article I came to told me that another name for fennel was actually “anise.” So, feeling rather proud of myself, I added it to the cart and headed off to find the Israeli couscous.
Normally, I buy this couscous at Trader Joe’s, but because I was in Cape May, my options were a but limited when it came to grocery stores. That being said, because I was at the larger Acme in North Cape May, I didn’t expect that finding this couscous would be a problem. Which it was—that is until I realized that it is also called “pearl couscous.” So, if you decide to make this recipe, make a note that instead of looking for Fennel and Israeli Couscous, look for Anise and pearl couscous.
Now on to the recipe. Because it cooked quickly, I prepped all of the ingredients before I started cooking. The only time consuming part came from my decision to add shrimp to the recipe—as I then had to peel and clean a pound of large shrimp. But beyond that, the whole thing took about 20-25 minutes start to finish. My only frustration came at the end, as I followed the recipe’s timing, there still seemed to be a lot of liquid in the pan, and the couscous started to stick to the bottom. Then, the worst part was that about 5-6 of the clams out of the 24 didn’t open, and I kept wondering if I should let them cook longer even though I might be risking ruining the couscous. In the end, I threw out the clams that didn’t open and served the couscous with the bit of liquid still remaining—and everyone loved it. The flavors were delicious, and everyone from the kids to the adults wanted seconds. The verdict about the clams? Everyone agreed that the recipe would not have been as satisfying without the addition of the shrimp and scallops, as the little bit of meat in 5 clams was more like a taste than a meal.