09 March 2011

From the Chef ~ Insalata di Calamari

This quick, easy, and satisfying preparation is great as an antipasto or light main dish.  Not quite as inexpensive as it once was, these days calamari is most commonly sold pre-cleaned in tubes and legs, and oftentimes previously frozen.  If ever you purchase them uncleaned, give me a call and I can walk you though the highly-efficient calamari cleaning method I once learned as a busboy and occasional prep cook at Settebello Ristorante, the legendary'80s restaurant located on that funny little triangular corner of Olive and Denny on Capitol Hill.  Basically, you stick your finger in the squid’s %@#*!.... and shove it through (watch out for the squirting ink!) its mouth and... but I'll spare you the gory details.  And if ever you get really motivated, you could join some of my good friends who like to hit the waterfront on a winter’s night with a few bright lights and a squid jig—I understand that if you swing for the fences, a five gallon bucket is not out of the question!  And you thought calamari were only good for deep frying… who knew there was so much to be said about these humble and weird cephalopods.

· Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil.  Separately, clean and rinse 1 lb. calamari and slice bodies into rings 1/4 inch or less in width.  Blanch calamari for about 45 seconds.  Strain and immediately rinse in cold water to preserve tenderness.  Drain completely; wrap in paper towels to soak up any remaining liquid.
· Coarsely chop 4-5 ribs of celery ribs and greens—I like to use a combination of outer and inner ribs.  Mix together with cooked calamari and 1 clove minced garlic.
· Drizzle salad with lots of quality olive oil (1/3 cup or so) and freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/3 cup or so).  Season with salt to taste, black pepper (1/2 tsp.) and a dash of red pepper.  Let marinate a bit and then enjoy with other antipasti, a green salad, white wine, and good bread!