Saturday, May 8, 2010

Grilled shrimp, zucchini, and leeks over Israeli couscous

Mmm. Feta. Salty, crumbly yet creamy, distinctively tangy, I love a good feta. This particular variety is a sheep's milk feta called "Valbreso". It was good but not great, perhaps because it's subtle for me - I like to be punched in the face by my cheese. I'll try another variety next time.

This is Allan's Favorite Meal. And I agree, it's very very good, simple, and healthy. It's a glorified pasta salad, really. I use my grill pan, but you could certainly use your grill or just a heavy skillet. The recipe calls for fresh herbs, but I've made this many times using dried and it turns out just fine so don't run out and buy fresh oregano and thyme at $1.99 a pop (and have no idea what to do with the other 90% of the package). Do go plant some in your garden, though.

Shrimp is another of my price club favorites. It's always higher quality and cheaper than what you'll get in your regular Megamart freezer (and always cheaper than what you'll get fresh, in a seafood desert like Dallas at least). My standard purchase is the 2lb bag of raw 21-25 counts.

This is (cooked) Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous. It's just little round pasta. Orzo is a perfect substitute if you can't find it, but I've found it's always available in the bulk bins at your finer grocery stores. I love the bulk bins. It's cheap (even at Whole Foods), always stocked with interesting ingredients, it's environmentally conscious because there's no wasted packaging, and it's always being turned over with fresh product. Befriend the bulk bins, y'all.

Obviously I'll be using my own zucchini when I have them (you gotta see that plant - I'll post a garden update tomorrow), as well as my own onions. The original recipe calls for a red onion, but I discovered a vagabond leek in the crisper desperate for a purpose. Potato, potahto, onionato, onionahto. It worked just fine. Perhaps you've noticed, I'm not really a slave to recipes. It makes far more sense to me to substitute similar ingredients that are lying around than waste money and food buying the "right" ones.

1 large red onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (or an orphaned leek, halved lengthwise)
3 small zucchini, sliced on the bias into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and tails removed

1/2 cup Israeli couscous (or orzo)
1.5 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh oregano, minced (or a tsp dried)
2 tbsp fresh thyme, minced (or a tsp dried)
1 garlic clove, minced
good olive oil

1/4 cup or so crumbled feta

Because of the space limitations of my grill pan, I grill all the elements separately and toss them together at the end. [If I were using a grill, I'd prep my dressing and couscous first, then grill the shrimp and vegetables together right before serving.] Anyway, onions first. Give them a light coating of olive oil and sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (do this to the zucchini and shrimp too) and grill on both sides until they've softened and have good grill marks, about 10 minutes. Remove them into a large bowl, then repeat with the zucchini slices. They'll take less time than the onions, maybe only 2 minutes per side. Add them to the onions when they're done.  Do your shrimp last, right before you're ready to serve, and add them to the bowl as well.

While your veggies are grilling, cook your couscous in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes. Make sure you taste it to see if it's done, you want it al dente. Drain, then pop it back into the pot you cooked it in.

Meanwhile, whip up your dressing by combining the red wine vinegar, herbs, and garlic in a bowl. Stream the good olive oil into the bowl while whisking to form an emulsion. Season with a little kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a couple of tablespoons of dressing to the couscous and pour the rest over your grilled shrimp and vegetables. Toss. Plate up a mound of Israeli couscous, smother in your shrimp and vegetables, crumbling your lovely feta right over the top.

Serves 2, takes about half an hour.

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