Couscous, Shrimp and Spinach Salad
- Servings: 4 as a main course, 8 as a side.
In her splendid cookbook, Vegetable Harvest, author Patricia Wells has an excellent recipe for couscous and spinach salad. Over the years I've made it, I've changed the recipe in several ways, particularly by using Israeli couscous instead of the finer instant kind and by adding cold, cooked shrimp to turn the salad from a side dish into a main course.
What I've not touched is her recipe for Creamy Lemon-Chive Dressing, which once you try it, just may become a favorite go-to recipe.
To cut the spinach as chiffonade, simply stack up about 6 or 8 spinach leaves and then roll them like a cigar. Using a sharp knife, slice the roll in thin, uniform slices.
While the original salad recipe is brilliant, my adaptation is simpler to make and also more substantial. On a very hot summer day you can cook both the couscous and the shrimp earlier in the day when boiling water won't seem so onerous, and then chill them to assemble the salad at suppertime.
The shrimp can be left out entirely and the salad served as a side with cold roast chicken or poached salmon.
Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a side, with or without the shrimp.
- 1 1/2 pound large or jumbo wild shrimp, shells and veins removed, about 16 to 20 depending on the size
- 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
- Salt for cooking the couscous
- 6 scallions or spring onions, trimmed of roots and the dark green tops, cut into thin slices, about 1/2 cup
- 6 oz. washed baby spinach (1 bag), trimmed of stems and cut into chiffonade (about 4 to 5 cups)
- 1/2 cup Creamy Lemon-Chive Dressing (see below)
- Cook the shrimp in boiling water until pink and completely cooked, about 2 to 3 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp; do not overcook or else they'll become tough. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Let cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator, covered, to chill.
- Cook the couscous in salted boiling water until tender, about 6 to 7 minutes; drain, rinse with cool water, and drain completely. Let cool to room temperature or place in refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, to chill.
- When ready to serve the salad, put the spinach and scallion into a serving bowl and toss to combine. Add the couscous and gently toss to combine with the spinach and scallion. Pour the dressing over the mixture, and toss again to coat. Add the shrimp to the mixture or else plate the salad and place several shrimps on top of each serving.
- Serve immediately.
Creamy Lemon-Chive Dressing
This dressing is best made in a glass jar with a lid because it's easier to shake it to combine than whisk or stir it (I use a canning jar because it's got measuring marks right on its side).
While you may think the cream will curdle from the lemon juice, in fact the light cream has enough fat in it to resist it. If you can't find light cream, substitute half-and-half, although I find that the extra richness from the light cream makes searching for it worth the trouble.
The easiest way to mince the chives is to snip them with a pair of scissors.
I also love this dressing poured over in-season New Jersey tomatoes or roasted beets that have been cooled to room temperature.
Makes 1 1/4 cups.
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup light cream
1/3 cup finely minced chives
- In a small glass jar combine the lemon juice and salt. Shake the jar until the salt dissolves. Add the cream and chives and shake again to combine (it will slightly thicken).
- Cover and store refrigerated for up to one week. Shake before using.