Think of this as a fresh take on pasta salad. . . an elegant side to a summer buffet or an entree in itself. It derives from one of my favorite comfort foods – one I don’t make often: shrimp and grits. Shrimp and grits – Charleston-style – is a heaven-sent dish of creamy, buttery, cheesy goodness, topped with a spicy shrimp “gravy.” My summer version here a far lighter dish than the classic Southern fare – substituting pearl (Israeli) couscous for the creamy stone-ground grits. The “dressing” is mayonnaise-based, doctored with lemon, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and fresh herbs from the garden. (Because I had a muffaletta-type spicy pickled olive spread on hand, I also added that to the dressing. Most recipes for the shrimp topping call for bacon. I recommend kicking it up a notch (as Emeril would say) with a few slices of Italian Tazzo ham. Absolutely nothing stands in the way of serving this dish hot — though an afternoon siesta in the fridge is recommended for optimal blending of the flavors.
- 2 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup water
- 1.5 pounds uncooked shrimp, peeled an deveined
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 ounces Tazzo ham (substitutes: procuitto or sweet Italian bulk sausage)
- 1 shallot, finely sliced
- splashes Tabasco, or red pepper sauce of choice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (for cooking)
- 2 scallions, chopped for garnish
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, basil leaves)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon Muffaletta (olive relish) Optional
- To prepare couscous: heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pan, add two cups of couscous. Stir until couscous is coated in warm oil – (do not let the mixture brown). Add chicken stock and water, and simmer for about twenty minutes. Or until couscous has absorbed all liquid and is done. Set aside.
- In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add ham (or sausage), garlic, shallot, peppers. Cook until vegetables are softened. Combine vegetable mixture with couscous.
- To sauté shrimp, add 1 tablespoon olive oil in the pan used for the veg mixture (or use a separate pan). Cook about two minutes until shrimp are plump and tender. Remove immediately from heat.
- To prepare dressing: in a small bowl, combine all six ingredients and whisk.
- To assemble: stir dressing into couscous vegetable mixture, top with shrimp, garnish with chopped scallions or fresh herbs. Dish may be served hot, chilled or at room temperature. (It’s all good.)