Scampi with Artichokes over Pesto Couscous, a delicious luxurious dish sporting wonderful basil flavors and buttery sweet scampi sauteed with artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. A nice change from the menu of festive recipes over the Christmas holidays.
Scampi with Artichokes over Pesto Couscous, a delicious way to say goodbye to the Christmas season, and hello to a new and exciting year!
It's the day of la Befana (the day of the good witch). In Italian tradition on the night of the fifth of January, a good witch (la Befana) visits houses riding on her broomstick, and people leave stocking for her to fill. She is said to bring coal candy to the children who have been naughty and wonderful candies and presents to those who have behaved. It marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the new. This day is a stat holiday and people feast on wonderful dishes being with family and giving thanks to the Befana.
Today we are celebrating with this beautiful seafood dish Scampi with Artichokes over Pesto Couscous.
Scampi is something I had never tried before until visiting Italy and had some with a risotto (Risotto crema di scampi). I loved the buttery, nutty sweet flavor of them and the creaminess of that risotto colored with rich tomatoes and cream. It made it a heavenly experience for me, and one I would remember to call upon when inspired to do a dish with scampi again.
Scampi is not something we find here in Edmonton often. One, there is no sea close by and two, a very far trek to get them here. Well, I was at Bi-Coastal foods, a local fishmonger in these parts. I was actually there picking up some beautiful Atlantic Salmon for Christmas Eve dinner. While they were cutting me a piece of salmon I was doing some wandering looking at all the frozen seafood they had, crab, lobster, scallops, and that is when I spotted these scampi. Immediately I had ideas in my head about recipes, one such as the risotto that brought back so many wonderful memories of Italy and visiting with relatives. I decided to buy a package and surprise Nicoletta. I know they are frozen but who knows, they may be delicious just the same, maybe not as delicious as fresh, but I will work some seasoning to make these out of this world good. The look on Nicoletta's face was good and she was excited for the scampi.
The decision process
This was a collaborative effort. In my mind, a risotto, but feeling a bit heavy from the festive season wanted to keep things light. Nicoletta had seen a recipe for couscous blending it with pesto. I had an ah-ha moment and thought this couscous would be a great platform for a sauteed scampi. So there you have it: ideas at hand and ingredients in the kitchen. Nicoletta and I rocked this dish out of the park.
I think a great way to get a recipe going is to have all the ingredients ready to go. This enables you to infuse a lot of positive, worry free, relaxing energy into this scampi dish. The scampi all nice and thawed, peeled and deveined, courtesy of Nicoletta. Lately, she has really helped me a lot. I have been dealing with some family medical issues, and have not had the time for prep. I would have to say I miss it tremendously but am grateful to my beautiful wife who does amazing work. So with that being said, we are ready with the other ingredients, couscous, pesto which we made a while ago and freeze in small containers ready to use at any time. My parents had so much basil this year which thankfully has blessed us with some great quantities of pesto. The other ingredients, artichoke hearts which were the canned variety, some sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, shallots, garlic, some seasonings and of course extra virgin olive oil.
The couscous is easy. In just a few minutes from steaming in boiling water, then a fork to fluff it up and it is done. Then a bit of pesto sauce goes in and a quick toss and that couscous is infused with wonderful joyful flavors. In a saute pan goes some finely minced shallot, and garlic, accompanied by that liquid gold, olive oil. When the onion is translucent I add the artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and toss it a bit. The best part, the scampi go in, some white wine, parsley, sea salt and black pepper, a little basil paste, a few drops of sriracha sauce and then I had another ah ha moment. That two for this recipe, wow! I have some grated lemongrass in the freezer, and I am thinking it will give some bright notes to the mix, so trusting my intuition in it goes. I let it simmer till the white wine dissipates and a sauce begins to form with the ingredients coating the scampi. The smell is amazing and I am salivating. I can't wait to sink my teeth into those scampi and let all that flavor run rampant over my taste buds.
Plating is important, remember that the stages of eating are first the aroma, and I think we have that, then comes the visual. I chose an aqua dish to me resembling the sea. A nice mound of the basil couscous and topping it with all those lovely morsels of scampi, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, glistening with that sheen of olive oil and spices.
With everything plated we are ready to sit and enjoy a wonderful dinner, maybe even a glass of chilled chablis which I made last year and am quite happy with the outcome.
The flavors are amazing. The couscous light and fluffy and so infused with that basil, pine nut, olive oil, garlic, and Parmigiano in the pesto. Then the scampi, juicy, plump, exploding in your mouth with those seafood juices, in combination to the acidity and sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes sauteed with the artichoke hearts and a bit of heat from the sriracha is heavenly. The lemon grass peaking out in every bite delivering a fresh transition to the heat. I love this dish it has beautifully bright flavor notes and wonderful texture. Scampi with Artichokes over Pesto Couscous, visually stunning and aromatically transcendental, this dish will be a welcome plate at your next dinner party, but why wait for that, make it a special dinner night for you, you deserve it, and it's the day of the good witch!
For the scampi with articihokes:
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 shallot minced
- 12 scampi, devined, peeled
- 4 artichoke hearts, drained, quartered
- 4 sun dried tomatoes in olive oil slivered
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp grated lemon grass
- 1 tsp sriracha sauce
- 1 tsp basil puree
- salt and pepper
For the pesto couscous:
- 2 tbsp pesto
- ¾ cup couscous
- 1 cup water
- In a medium pot add hot water to couscous.
- Cover and let sit.
- Steam for about 5 minutes then take a fork and fluff.
- Add pesto and a drizzle of olive oil, to couscous and blend well.
- In a saute pan heat up 2 tbsp olive oil.
- Toss in shallots and garlic and saute till soft 1-2 minutes.
- Throw in artichoke heart quarters, and sun dried tomatoes, and stir.
- Place in scampi
- Pour in white wine and lemon juice, sriracha, lemon grass, basil puree, and stir.
- Cook for about 5 minutes till wine dissipates and sauce thickens coating scampi.
- Sprinkle in some crushed black pepper and taste for salt, add if needed.
- Take off heat.
- Place couscous in a serving platter.
- Pour the scampi mixture on top.
- Drizzle remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.
- Serve with lemon wedges.
- Serving Size: 4 servings