I am always looking for interesting pasta or grain dishes to take to the pool or a cookout. Something easily transportable that will also keep well and provide the perfect vehicle for fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden.
From time to time we get bored with our old favorites: curried rice and raisins, basil pesto with farfalle and asparagus, sesame noodles (although those are are good ones!)
Thanks to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, home cooks now have access to interesting ancient grains and starches, including exotic stuff like quinoa, Burmese red rice, farro, spelt and barley.
In my quest to expand my grain horizons, I bought a box of Israeli pearl couscous. The recipe on the back of the box looked tempting enough, but I thought I could doctor it up a bit to make it a main dish.
In my research on couscous, I found there is a raging debate whether couscous is a grain or a pasta. Foodies: they are a contentious bunch. Since couscous is made with semolina flour, I’m going to side with the ‘couscous is a pasta’ faction. (The other side of the argument is that since semolina flour is made from a grain, couscous is a by-product of grain. You decide.)
Pearl couscous is larger than the Moroccan couscous we typically see in tabbouleh. (Don’t ask me why pearl couscous is known as ‘Israeli’ and the other kind ‘Moroccan’ because then we might need to convene a Middle-East Peace Food Summit.)
- 5 T. unsalted butter
- 2 T. chopped shallots
- 2 T. crushed garlic (I use Gourmet Garden garlic paste in the tube, it’s easier)
- 2 T. chopped green onion (white and green parts)
- 1 C. chopped green zucchini
- 1 1/2 C. Israeli couscous
- 1 3/4 C. chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 16 medium uncooked shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- 1 C. frozen peas (defrost them by running some cold water over them, they should still have a bit of crunch)
- 1/4 C. freshly chopped parsley
- 2 T. chopped fresh dill
- 2 T. fresh lemon juice
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- Melt 2 T. butter in large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 T. chopped shallots, 1 T. chopped green onion, and 1 T. crushed garlic to the pan. Add 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous (the contents of the box) to the pan and saute until golden for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 1 3/4 C. chicken broth and 1/2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender. At this point the pearl couscous will have the texture of risotto, but a bit chewier.
- Spread the cooked couscous out on a baking sheet to cool while you saute the zucchini and the shrimp. (I did this because I did not want the couscous to get sticky while I prepared the seafood and vegetable I wanted to mix with it.)
- In the same large saute pan, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat and when butter is sputtering, add 16 medium count peeled, fresh shrimp to the pan. Saute shrimp 2 minutes on each side (flipping once) until firm and pink (do not over-cook because you are going to put them back on the flame when mixed with the cooked couscous).
- Pour the cooked shrimp and butter mixture over the cooked couscous and toss.
- In the same large saute pan, melt remaining 1 T.butter until sizzling and add remaining 1 T. chopped shallot, 1 T. crushed garlic, and 1 T. green onion. Add 1 C. chopped zucchini. Saute zucchini and aromatics for 4 minutes until zucchini is browned but not mushy.
- Squeeze 1 T. fresh lemon juice over sauteed zucchini and add the couscous and shrimp mixture back to the saute pan.
- Toss all together and add 1 C. of defrosted peas, 1/4 C. of chopped, fresh parsley and 2 T. of chopped fresh dill. Heat over low flame until peas are warm.
- Taste and adjust seasonings by adding remaining 1 T. lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of kosher salt if needed.