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While working on my latest cookbook—devoted to “any night grilling”—I discovered that sweet Gulf shrimp is one of the most delicious foods to fire on a grill. Most recipes call for skewering shrimp, but I prefer to grill them in a preheated basket (see slideshow) or cast-iron skillet that allows me to work my grill like a range. I pour the marinated shrimp into the basket (an olive oil marinade prevents sticking) then flip, rotate and shake the basket as needed, so they cook evenly. The lightly charred shrimp is a natural partner for orzo flavored with lemon zest, grilled lemons, crumbled feta and olives.
2 pounds (18–20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
16 ounces uncooked orzo
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts) or chopped red onion
1/2 cup green olives (any variety) or Kalamata or oil-cured olives
1/2 cup lightly chopped Italian parsley
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1. Place the shrimp in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Add the oregano or marjoram, thyme and red pepper flakes, and toss again, then set aside to marinate at room temperature while preparing the grill.
2. Prepare grill for two-zone (indirect) grilling: Build a medium-high fire in a charcoal grill (or light a gas grill to high). If you’re using a grill basket or cast-iron skillet, allow it to heat on the grill 5–10 minutes before cooking.
3. While the grill heats, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook per package directions until al dente, then drain. Transfer orzo to a mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine (to help prevent pasta from sticking).
4. Finely grate the zest from 1 lemon and add zest to orzo, then halve both lemons horizontally.
5. When you’re ready to cook, place shrimp directly in preheated grill basket or directly on grates. Flip and rotate shrimp around the heat as needed until fully cooked, about 5–6 minutes total, then remove from heat.
6. Brush the cut-side of the lemons with olive oil and grill until deep char marks appear, about 2–3 minutes.
7. Combine the warm shrimp with the orzo and toss to combine. Add about 1/3 cup olive oil, scallions, olives, parsley and feta, and toss gently to combine. Taste, and add salt or pepper as desired. Serve warm or at room temperature with grilled lemon halves.
If you prefer to grill directly on the grates, you can use large or jumbo shrimp, which are easier to turn. If you prefer to grill the shrimp on bamboo skewers, soak the skewers in water 30 minutes before grilling so they won’t catch fire.