Shrimp and Israeli Couscous Salad with Mango and Avocado

Shrimp and Israeli Couscous Salad with Mango and Avocado - A Thought For Food

Being the primary cook in our house, I have a lot of control over what's on the table. I prepare what I crave, and lately it's been salads. Often this is a green salad with vegetables and roasted salmon. However, when I'm in the mood for something heartier, I bust out the rice or couscous (I love my carbs). For this bowl, I pulled together a bunch of ingredients that make me sublimely happy: shrimp, mango, herbs, and avocado. It may not be the healthiest "salad," but its fresh and vibrant flavors are what I need to get me through these last weeks of winter.

Shrimp and Israeli Couscous Salad with Mango and Avocado - A Thought For Food

Shrimp and Israeli Couscous Salad with Mango and Avocado

Servings: 4-6, as a side

1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
3 cups vegetable broth
3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 mango, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup torn mint leaves
1/8 cup torn parsley leaves, stems removed
1 red pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil
Vegetable oil
Black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add couscous and stir continuously until the couscous gets a little color and smells toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. Add water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. If there is any remaining liquid, drain through a colander. 

In a mixing bowl, toss shrimp with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon paprika. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes on each side.

Transfer the couscous and shrimp to a large serving bowl and toss with the red pepper, mango, lime juice, parsley, mint, garlic, and ginger. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Shrimp and Israeli Couscous Salad with Mango and Avocado - A Thought For Food

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil)

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil) from A Thought For Food
Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil) from A Thought For Food
Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil) from A Thought For Food

I turn 33 on Friday, but my birthday is the last thing on my mind right now. There are plenty of things keeping me preoccupied. We're getting our house painted next week... which I didn't realize would be such a big, expensive project... but it is (yay home ownership!) There are a lot of elements to consider. Most of the exterior needs to be stripped before it can be painted and a couple of shingles will be repaired. The thing that's been stressing us out is the task of picking out colors. Our house is a Victorian, built in 1890, and it has four colors on it (six, if you count the door and the porch floor). My brain can handle one or two, but four is a lot to process. We knew we wanted some greens, but besides that we're completely lost. Luckily, we have a friend who does beautiful home design work and she was gracious enough to guide us through some options. We've picked out a really nice collection: two greens, a dark purple accent, an off-white trim, and a soft yellow for the door. I'm pretty psyched about it.

The other big thing is that in less than two weeks, I'll be heading off to Spain to tour some wineries in Ribera del Duero and Rueda, about 2.5 hours north of Madrid! If that weren't exciting enough, Eric is going to join me at the end so we can spend a few days exploring Madrid. We'll check out as many museums as we can, and the rest of the time will be spent walking and eating and drinking. We're hoping to take a day trip to Toledo, but we haven't made any concrete plans yet.

In honor of our upcoming trip, I pulled out a recipe from the most recent issue of Food & Wine, which happens to be dedicated to Spain (perfect timing!). I've consumed shrimp in garlic oil at my share of tapas restaurants and have never been disappointed. Chances were, this would go well. I made very few adaptations, because why mess around with a good thing? The first, less important change, was that I didn't have whole red chile on hand so I used crushed red chili pepper instead. The other two modifications may be frowned upon by traditionalists, but I felt strongly that I wanted to cut the richness a bit. This is always a thing for me. I love butter and cheese and oil and all that fatty deliciousness, but I'm always looking for balance in a dish. So, acidity is key. The changes seemed harmless enough: a small amount of diced tomato and lemon juice. It did the trick, but didn't alter the integrity of the recipe.

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil) from A Thought For Food


Slightly adapted from the September 2017 issue of Food and Wine

4 servings

1 1/2 lbs. shelled and deveined large shrimp, tails intact
Kosher salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic
1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red chili flakes
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 Tbsp. dry sherry, such as manzanilla (alternatively, dry vermouth works)
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Crusty bread, for serving


1. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let stand for 10 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, in an 9-10 inch cast-iron skillet, combine garlic and olive oil and cook over moderately low heat until fragrant, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in chili flakes and cook for another 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn a light pink color, approximately 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the parsley, sherry, lemon zest and lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt. Remove from heat and let stand until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve in the skillet along with some crusty bread.   

Radish and Fennel Salad with Brussels Sprouts and Shrimp

Anyone else ready for spring? I know I am. While February was, for the most part, unseasonably warm, March became the month to escape. It got cold... very cold. And the snow fell, then melted, then fell again. Mother Nature, can you please stop messing with our heads? Please and thank you. I'm pretty sure we're moving on to warmer times, but it looks like it'll be wet for a while before we get to enjoy some much-deserved sunshine. 

I've had very few free moments these last couple of weeks, which means zero effort has been made to putting together recipes for the blog. I've sort of accepted it. If nothing happens, oh well. I can't force it and I certainly don't feel like it's worth stressing out over. That's why there were some lulls last month. Hoping to spend more time creating content in the coming weeks.

We just returned from New Jersey, where we celebrated my grandmother's birthday, and I got to see my nieces, both of whom recently celebrated theirs, and my mom, whose birthday is on Thursday. Eric and I arrived bearing lots of gifts for the little ones. Of course, the most exciting thing was a spinwheel like contraption I picked up from the Harvard Museum of Natural History. That and a ladybug umbrella. Both were a big hit. 

I've had the last few days free (meaning that I've been home working, editing photos that I should've done over the weekend). To break up the excessive amounts of computer time, recipes were crafted.  It's funny what a little kitchen time can do to raise one's spirits. I definitely needed that. And, here we have one of those creations... a bridge from winter to spring. Crispy vegetables tossed with roasted Brussels sprouts and shrimp and drizzled with a bright lemony, Dijon dressing. We scarfed this down for dinner the other night and I'm planning on making this (and variations on it), throughout the season. 

radish and fennel salad with bRUSSELS SPROUTS AND SHRIMP

Radish salad adapted from Melissa Clark's recipe in The New York TImes

Cut-resistant kitchen gloves

Serves 2-4

1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
Zest of 1 lemon
1 ounce lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Extra ­virgin olive oil
3 cups fresh parsley leaves
2 celery stalks, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline (1 cup)
6 radishes, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline (1 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline (1 cup)
2 teaspoons drained capers
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), as needed
Black pepper, as needed

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Trim the ends of the Brussels sprouts and cut each in half lengthwise. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt. Spread Brussels sprouts on baking sheet in an even layer. Transfer to the oven and roast for approximately 20 minutes, flipping half way through, until they are browned evenly (some leaves may burn and that's ok). Once cooked, transfer to a bowl to let cool. 

2. Again, line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread a small amount of oil on the foil and place the shrimp in a single layer on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and cook for 7-8 minutes, until cooked through. 

3. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, juice, Dijon mustard, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in shallot. 

4. Put the sliced celery, radish, and fennel in a mixing bowl. Mix in the Brussels sprouts and the parsley. Transfer to a serving platter.

5. Distribute cooked shrimp over salad. Spoon dressing over the dish and then sprinkle cappers on top. Season with sea salt and black pepper.