I am frequently stumped by the idea “What am I making for dinner?” Over the isolation, I have often settled for the tried and true recipes that I know my family likes, but over time even these pall. In these cases I go to the internet and search, “Ideas for dinner”—especially the hits that say things like, “Fifty recipes for a quick dinner.” I rapidly go through the pictures and recipe names going, “No, no, no, possibly, no, etc,” until I find something that “rings my bell.”
This time, as I was searching through my pantry I found a box of Israeli couscous that was just past its best by date. Finding a recipe for Israeli Couscous and Shrimp, I adapted it to my own tastes—upping some ingredients, dropping some, and adding a few of my own. One change I made was to toss out the chicken broth and replace it with shrimp broth—I always buy shrimp with the shells on for just this purpose.
Karl’s Israeli Couscous with Lemon Garlic Shrimp
1 pound large shell-on, de-veined raw shrimp
4 Tbs. ghee, butter, or extra-virgin olive oil, separate uses
1¾ cups shrimp broth or chicken stock
(Optional) 1 Tbs. Consome de Cameron
1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous
6 cloves garlic minced
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup cucumber, English or Persian, quartered crosswise
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup red onion, coarsely diced
4 oz. arugula AKA rocket
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1. Peel the shrimp—saving the shells—pat the meat dry with paper towels, and set them aside.
Note: If you have peeled shrimp, you may substitute chicken broth.
2. Melt half a tablespoon of ghee in a small pot and toast the shells over medium high heat until bright pink, 3-4 minutes over medium heat.
Tip: Cooking the shells first enhances the shrimp flavor of the final broth.
Note: The advantage of using ghee is that it does not have the risk of burning that regular butter has, but you still get the rich butter flavor.
3. Add 2 cups of water to the shrimp shells, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5-10 minutes—while you prepare the other ingredients.
Note: Since I frequently do not use enough shrimp in a single dish to make a decent shrimp broth, I keep a container of Consome de Cameron. A tablespoon really boosts the flavor of what would otherwise be an insipid shrimp broth.
4. Melt one tablespoon of ghee in a medium pot over a medium heat and toast the Israeli couscous until many pearls are well browned, about two minutes.
Tip: Stir the couscous constantly—you want the couscous to be toasted evenly. Even a slight inattention may result in a few of the pearls on the bottom of the pot burning, which would not be optimal.
5. Bring the shrimp broth to a full boil and then strain out the solids as you add it to the couscous.
Note: One cup of Israeli couscous calls for 1¾ to cook properly. While simmering your shells you will have about a quarter cup of the original 2 cups of water evaporated away.
6. Stir the couscous once, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for twelve minutes.
Tip: Couscous is pasta and—if you do not stir it right after you add the liquid—it will tend to clump together, slowing the cooking of the pearls in the center of the clumps.
Note: Leave the couscous alone until the cooking time is passed.
7. While the couscous is simmering, prep your vegetables—if you have not done so already.
8. Place the vegetables into a large salad bowl.
Tip: The bowl should be large enough that you can toss the ingredients without them flying all over the place.
Note: Be sure to separate the onions, so that they do not end up in large pieces. I did not and some bites were quite startling.
9. Four minutes before the couscous is ready, melt the remaining ghee in a heavy skillet.
Tip: I like using a cast iron skillet for this—as it retains the heat better than thin metal skillets when you add the shrimp.
10. Add the dried shrimp to the skillet and spread them into a single layer.
11. Sear the shrimp for 2 minutes and then toss the shrimp—trying to get each piece turned over to the raw side.
12. After one minute, add the chopped garlic to the pan, and stir fry the garlic and shrimp for one minute.
13. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the shrimp and add the lemon juice.
14. Remove the skillet from the heat and toss the shrimp to coat them with the seasonings and lemon juice.
15. After twelve minutes, check the couscous for doneness—by scooping a few pearls from the center of the pot and checking that they are al dente.
16. Transfer the shrimp to the pot of couscous—leaving most of the lemon garlic butter in the skillet.
Tip: At this point you can go in two directions. If you add the hot sauce, shrimp and couscous the heat will wilt—partially cook—the arugula. This will produce more of a hot main dish. If you let the hot ingredients cool—before adding them—you will end up with something closer to a dinner salad.
17. Pour the skillet sauce over the vegetables and toss to coat.
18. Fluff the couscous to separate the pearls and mix in the shrimp.
19. Add the couscous/shrimp to the vegetables and toss to mix them together.
20. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes over the dish and serve warm.
Note: Serve cool, if making this dish as a salad.