Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pearl couscous with shrimp

We eat couscous because I'm lazy. I've never mastered the art of making rice, and I don't eat nearly enough rice to justify the purchase of a rice maker. I actually gave in and started purchasing those frozen packets of already cooked rice from Trader Joe's. Yes, it is kind of ridiculous and a waste of money and packaging. But they take 3 minutes to cook and they make just enough rice for the two of us. It's my indulgence.

Back to couscous. I normally just get the whole wheat stuff that you mix with boiling water and fluff. Upgrading to the pearl couscous is a bit of a revelation. The texture is amazing and it holds its own in a cold salad. I'm pretty sure that the fresh herbs were key in this recipe because although the dressing is simple, it really sang. I think you could easily sub in whatever vinegar you have on hand and cut down on the olive oil just a smidge (I'm not a huge fan of too much oil in a cold salad). I also cut the amount of shrimp in half* and still felt like I was getting shrimp in every single bite.

Fair warning - we found this to be a massive quantity of food. Next time I'll be cutting the recipe in half, unless we need to feed an army.

israeli couscous + shrimp
{israeli couscous + shrimp}
Pearl couscous with shrimp (6 - 8 generous servings, original recipe here)

*The recipe calls for grilling the vegetables and shrimp - I'm sure this is amazing, but I took the easy route and just roasted stuff in the oven and used precooked shrimp. Gasp. If you want the original grilling instructions, click through to the original recipe.*

3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/4 cups pearl couscous (aka Israeli couscous; 3/4 pound)
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl ounces)
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2 lb large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined if necessary (1 lb was plenty for me)
2 medium red onions (1 pound total)
2 pounds large zucchini (about 4), cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
6 ounces feta, crumbled (1 1/4 cups) - totally optional, but delicious
:: Whisk together vinegar, oregano, thyme, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl until salt is dissolved. Add 1/3 (I think 1/4 cup would be better) cup oil in a slow stream, whisking until vinaigrette is combined. 

:: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then toast couscous, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and pale golden, 3 to 5 minutes. While couscous toasts, stir together broth, water, and saffron in a large glass measure. Add to couscous with 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer, uncovered. Simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed and couscous is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.  When finished, the couscous will be tender but not mushy and the saffron gives it a beautiful golden color. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Stir vinaigrette to combine, then stir 2 tablespoons into couscous and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature. 

:: Preheat oven to 425F. Cut onions into chunks and slice zucchini into wedges. Toss the veggies with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt in a large bowl. Spread out on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender, about 10 - 15 minutes. Don't crowd the sheet too much - I did this in two batches. 

:: If you are starting with raw shrimp, peel and devein them and you can either cook them in the oven or give them a quick saute in a pan. Shrimp cook in mere minutes, so this is easy. If you are even lazier, like me, you can just purchase cooked shrimp and proceed to the next step.

:: When the veggies are all cooked, toss them with the dressed couscous. Fold your cooked shrimp into the salad mixture. Serve right away or pop it in the refrigerator. It will be delicious straight out of the fridge the next day (or for the next four days, because this makes a ton of food and there are only two people in your house).
* Shrimp is one of my all time favorite foods but I save it for rare occasions because it's so hard to find ethically harvested options and shrimp farming is incredibly destructive. If I were an amazing person I would give it up altogether, but I settle for eating it a few times a year.


  1. Mmmm it looks amazing! I bet it would be tasty with orzo too!

  2. For a fool proof way of cooking brown rice, try the Saveur method: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Perfect-Brown-Rice.

    However, I've found that only using about 4.5 cups of water is plenty. Twelve cups is totally excessive, and I don't even know if I have a pot that big.

  3. did you really open this blog with...'because i am lazy?" if YOU are lazy, i don't know where the rest of personkind falls! after several fun days trampling the sidewalks of nyc, i have returned home to check emails etc. after all of the obvious internet stops, my thought is, 'let me see what SHE is up to' b/c it is always something good. have a great day my 'lazy' couscous friend. kathi

  4. i love israeli couscous, as i see it called here, in summer salads or warm with tomatoes and parmesan. lately i've started cooking regular couscous too - can't believe how easy it is and that i was foolish enough to listen to the bf's claim that he didn't like it!

  5. love the idea of the pearl couscous. looks much more fun to eat! i've been really into cold summer salads lately too. it's about all i can stomach with this miserable heat.

  6. why is israeli couscous so much better than the regular stuff? yum. we had a baby dinner party last night and served it with veggies, olive oil, cilantro and feta.

  7. this was absolutely amazing, filling and refreshing. plus, the name pearl couscous is just cute.

  8. haha! i just made this recipe last week. awesome and even better when cold (as i discovered from so many leftovers). i didn't happen to have israeli couscous at the time, so i just used orzo, and it was fine. this recipe is definitely a keeper

  9. That recipe looks fantastic. I love light summer salads that are refreshing and still filling. Thanks for including your tips and modifications too.


  10. I love Israeli couscous. It's pretty great with just about anything.

    Best way I've found to cook rice: saute some minced garlic & diced onions in 1-2Tbsp olive oil, then add the rice and stir to toast a little. Add the water (2ish:1 water to rice ratio), add some salt (water should taste a little salty but not like seawater), cover, and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, I turn the heat down to low (still covered) and leave it alone. When all the water is absorbed, it's done. It usually takes about 20 minutes. This works well for any kind of white rice; for brown rice or wild rice you'll need to increase the water and cook it for longer (like, 1 1/3ish c water for 1 c rice). If the rice is still a bit raw, you can add a little bit of water (scant 1/4 c at a time) and let it absorb. This gets a bit dangerous, though, because you can end up with a gummy pot of starch. If you do that, be very careful.

    (I'm one of those weirdos that didn't know Uncle Ben's 3-minute rice-in-a-bag existed until college.)

  11. I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's frozen rice in a bag, myself!

    This recipe sounds delicious.

  12. bookmarked for dinner at the farm in a week. will be doubling the recipe and singing your praises. this looks RIGHT up my alley. yum.

    also, how heinous is the word "devein?" on the same list: "disembody" and "disimpact." ew.

  13. love pearl couscous but haven't made it a long while. seeing this makes me want it asap.

    i'm right there with you on the shrimp dilemma. that, and bay scallops. nowadays, though, i don't think i'll have too much hesitation in giving up the scallops.

  14. Oh my this looks SO GOOD. My fiance and I have been big on couscous lately but we cheat... we but it from the store haha! It's fresh... They make it themselves... yeah, still not that much better right? Hell, it makes me look good in the kitchen what can I say ;)

    PS I'm doing a giveaway to promote charity. Come check it out!

  15. the hubby and i also indulge in those rice packets from TJ's. the lemongrass one is my absolute favorite!!!


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