Spicy Shrimp & Couscous Salad

This dish came together from a few sources. The couscous is a loose adaptation of a Jamie Oliver recipe; an uncooked couscous (yes, really) that is incredibly easy and versatile, depending on what veg you like. As far as the shrimp, I honestly can’t remember what the original source recipe was – might have been Emeril – but in any case I have tweaked it over the years until it’s really my own concoction.

The fact that you don’t have to cook the couscous, the profusion of veggies and herbs, and quick-cooking shrimp makes this a perfect summer meal. But you certainly don’t have to wait until summer to try it, provided you can find the herbs; they are key to the freshness of this dish.

Spicy Shrimp & Couscous Salad

Serves 2

For the couscous:

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 roasted red peppers*
  • 2-3 small chilis (jalapeno, serrano, habanero – whatever you prefer)
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 bunch cilantro (if you don’t care for cilantro, you can sub parsley)
  • red wine vinegar
  • optional: other grilled vegetable such as zucchini, eggplant, or summer squash

Put the couscous in a large bowl. Cut the lemon and squeeze both halves over the couscous, making sure not to let the seeds fall in. Drizzle with about 1 T of oil, and add a good three-finger pinch of salt and a few turns of cracked pepper. Using a whisk or a fork, mix couscous to distribute the flavorings well throughout, then add 1 cup of water (or a little more, depending on what the brand you are using suggests for one cup of couscous). Set aside to absorb.

While the couscous is soaking, dice the peppers (roasted plus fresh chilies), scallions and cilantro (or parsley), and other grilled vegetables you choose to use. When the couscous is ready (usually takes about 30 minutes for it to fully absorb the liquid), add in the chopped herbs and veg, and a splash or two of red wine vinegar. Stir everything together, taste for seasoning and adjust with more vinegar, salt or pepper as needed.

*I usually roast my own peppers for this recipe, though you could used jarred peppers. If you have a gas range, it’s easy to do in a few minutes. Place a pepper directly on the grate over a low/medium-low flame. Keep an eye on it, and when the first side gets blackened, turn it over to blacken another side; keep doing this until the pepper is blackened all over. Altogether it might take about 10 minutes. When it’s done, put in a paper bag, or in a bowl & cover with plastic. Let steam for about 20-30 minutes, after which time the peel should slide off easily. It can then be seeded and chopped for whatever use you want.

For the shrimp:

  • 1/2 lb peeled & deveined shrimp
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, or more, finely minced
  • zest & juice from one lemon
  • 2T sriracha chili sauce
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil

In a bowl large enough to hold the shrimp, combine all ingredients except the shrimp. Stir well to blend together, then add the shrimp and toss gently to coat the shrimp in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes but no longer than an hour before cooking.

When ready to cook, heat a saucepan or skillet large enough to hold the shrimp in one layer over medium-high heat; add a drizzle of oil to very lightly coat the pan. When oil starts to shimmer, add shrimp to pan along with marinade. Cook quickly, turning shrimp as needed to cook through; be careful not to overcook.

Serve shrimp over the couscous salad.

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