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Couscous Saganaki with Shrimp and Sambuca

couscous saganaki

Even on a hot summer night, the delicate flavours in this warm dish are refreshing. It makes for a beautiful presentation to bring a one-course dinner (comprising one steaming, colourful skillet) to the table.

The recipe I derived this from, on Epicurious, used millet instead of couscous. I think a short grain rice could work equally well.


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
couscous saganaki



  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (about 1 small)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • 3 small hot green chiles, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl (mush with your hands for best effect)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced into quarters
  • 4 ounces coarsely crumbled Greek feta cheese (about 1 cup), preferably sheep's milk, or alternatively 1 cup of soft brebis

Shrimp, and to finish

  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, deveined, shelled, and patted dry
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sambuca, or other anise-flavored liqueur such as ouzo
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
To prepare the couscous, bring the water, bay leaves, and salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the couscous and butter. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover, remove the bay leaves, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make the saganaki. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, chile, and salt; cook, stirring frequently, until the onion softens and turns light golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it darkens, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the pepper, and the dill; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to maintain a light boil and cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes.

Stir in the couscous and green olives. Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle with the cheese and cover to allow the cheese to soften.

To prepare the shrimp, season them with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp. Cook, undisturbed, until the shrimp turn golden, 1 to 2 minutes, and then flip them with a spatula and cook until they are just opaque throughout, 1 to 2 more minutes. Add the sambuca and cook until syrupy, about 30 seconds. Using a spatula, briskly remove the shrimp from the pan and arrange on top of the saganaki mixture. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve at once.