One of my favorite starches to cook and eat is pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous. It behaves and tastes a bit more like a pasta than what is typically thought of as couscous because of the accurately named larger pearls.
I love this dish not only because of how delicious it is but because you can start the cooking process for the couscous and have the shrimp cooked in the time it takes for the couscous to finish. Dinner can be on the table in 20 minutes, start to finish.
I chose to add asparagus to the couscous to add a vegetable element, in addition to the fact that asparagus is a flavor that I love pairing with shrimp. I think the two of them go together brilliantly.
This plate, when all is said and done, screams freshness and finesse.
3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (if you love garlic use as much as you like)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound of pearl/Israeli couscous
½ cup dry white wine
3½ cups chicken broth
1 pound large peeled and deveined shrimp, patted dry
1 bunch asparagus, with the bottom inch or so trimmed off, cut into approximately 1-inch pieces
1 large bunch basil, finely sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
- In a large pot, heat half (1½ tablespoons) of the cooking oil.
- Add the diced yellow onion, stirring it in the oil for about 30 seconds, and then add the garlic. The reason we do the onion first is because garlic burns very easily and gets bitter when it does. This way the onion lowers the temperature in the pot, preventing the garlic from burning.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the pearl couscous and stir it to get it coated in the oil. Let it gently toast in the pot for about a minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the dry white wine, stirring it in and letting it cook for a minute. Then add the chicken stock, stirring it in as well.
- At this point cover the pot and set a timer for 8 minutes.
- In a large saucepan, heat the rest of the cooking oil until it shimmers. Season the shrimp with salt, pepper and chili powder. Cook the shrimp largely on one side so they develop a nice crust, then flip them and cook for 30 seconds or so on the other side. When the shrimp are done, remove them from the heat and set them on a plate.
- When the timer for the couscous goes off, remove the top of the pot and add the asparagus. Stirring it in so it is incorporated, continue cooking the couscous uncovered for another 5 or so minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the asparagus is tender.
- Season the couscous to taste with salt, pepper and whatever other spices and seasonings you desire. Stir in the basil at this point.
- Serve a generous helping of the couscous topped with 5 or so shrimp; garnish with extra-virgin olive oil.
This should make 4 generous helpings, plus perhaps some leftovers. Be sure to enjoy this as a perfect weeknight meal that doesn’t take too much effort but is absolutely delicious.
As always, let us know what changes you make when you make this recipe your own.
In Recipe of the Month food writer Steven DeSalvo shares a recipe Montclairians might enjoy making. DeSalvo has a degree in hospitality business management from the University of Delaware and has worked extensively in restaurants and hotels. If there is something you want to know how to make, or if you’ve eaten a dish at a local restaurant you are dying to make at home, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.