By Barbara Beltrami
Calamari. When did it get so popular? Great as a snack, an appetizer, part of a main dish or a main dish itself, its chewy but tender texture and mild seafood flavor explains why it’s featured on so many menus. Calamari is fairly easy to cook (usually one minute in boiling water) before deep frying, sauteing, marinating for a salad or adding to a pasta sauce. Available at most fish mongers or supermarkets, it’s nicely cleaned, frozen and conveniently packaged to be thawed, then sliced into rings.
YIELD: Makes 4 servings.
1 pound thawed, frozen cleaned squid
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup corn flour
1/3 cup fine yellow cornmeal
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups or more canola oil
Cut calamari tubes into half-inch rings; leave small tentacles whole. Place in a medium bowl, pour buttermilk over it, toss to coat thoroughly, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably more. When ready to fry, in large skillet or Dutch oven heat oil to 375 F. With a slotted spoon remove calamari from buttermilk and let excess drip off. In a shallow dish combine flours, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Dredge calamari with flour mixture and gently place in hot oil; fry, turning if necessary, until golden, about one minute. With a slotted spoon remove the calamari quickly to paper towels and drain. Serve hot with lemon wedges and marinara, cocktail or tartar sauce.
YIELD: Makes 4 servings.
11/2 pounds thawed, frozen cleaned squid, cut into 1/2-inch rings
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Half red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced
2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1 celery rib, cleaned and cut into thin slices
1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil; add calamari and cook one minute, then immerse in ice water to stop cooking. When cool, drain in colander; pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and red onion; let sit 15 minutes so flavors blend. In a serving bowl, toss together calamari, olives, tomatoes, celery, fennel and parsley; add dressing and toss again to thoroughly blend. Serve at room temperature with rustic bread and extra virgin olive oil.
Spicy Calamari in Tomato Sauce
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
One 28-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
6 ounces clam juice or broth
½ cup dry red, rose or white wine
¼ cup chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
½ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
2½ pounds thawed, frozen cleaned calamari, cut into ½-inch rings
In a small medium pot over medium heat, warm oil. Add onion and saute until golden, about 5 minutes; add garlic and saute until it releases its aroma, about half a minute. Add tomatoes with their juice, clam juice, wine, herbs, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, about 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add calamari and cook till tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with linguine and/or grilled Italian bread slices.