Sunday, July 28, 2013

Grilled Calamari with a Red Pepper Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of cooking a three course meal for my parents.  The theme of the meal was two fold: (1) grilled dishes and (2) most of the ingredients were to come from the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio.  My first dish was Grilled Apricots, Burrata and Arugula Salad, which was very good.  The second dish was an appetizer: grilled calamari with a red pepper sauce.

This recipe is a simplified version of a recipe that I found on Saveur's website.  The reason that this recipe is "simplified" is the lack of access to certain ingredients, such as aji dolce peppers and sherry vinegar.  I decided that I would simply make my own red pepper sauce that would parallel a romesco sauce.  A romesco sauce is a Spanish sauce made with roasted peppers and almonds that is often served with seafood.  However, a romesco sauce is very versatile and it can be served with really any kind of meat, including beef, chicken and turkey.

This dish was the least faithful to my theme, because the key ingredients -- calamari, roasted peppers and almonds -- came from the grocery store rather than the West Side Market.  The reason is that, by the time I got to the seafood vendor, the calamari was picked over and what was left was really too small to grill.  I really wanted a nice combination of big bodies and tentacles.  I also had to get the peppers and almonds from the grocery store, although I could have bought some red peppers and roasted them on the grill and then pureed them.  Even though this aspect of my theme fell short, the dish itself still worked out very well.

One final note: the calamari should be grilled whole.  It is not worth the effort to grill calamari rings.  The reason is that the rings will cook too fast and spend only about a minute or two total on the grill.  I wanted to keep the calamari on the grill for as long as I could without overcooking it.  So, look for large bodies and good sized tentacles for this dish. After grilling the calamari, you could serve the bodies whole, which I did, or cut them into rings. 


GRILLED CALAMARI WITH A RED PEPPER SAUCE
Recipe adapted from Saveur
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds of calamari, bodies and tentacles
1 jar of roasted red peppers
1/4 cup of sliced almonds, toasted
2 cloves of garlic, diced finely
2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/4 to 1/2 of olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1.  Make the red pepper sauce.  Combine the red peppers, toasted almonds, flat leaf parsley, garlic, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper in a blender.  Blend the ingredients, and add the olive oil slowly in a stream.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Move the sauce into a small saucepan and heat the sauce.  Do not let the sauce come to a boil.

2.  Grill the calamari.  Thread the squid bodies on skewers, about two bodies per skewer.  Thread the tentacles on a separate skewer.  Baste the squid bodies and tentacles liberally with olive oil.  Heat a grill to medium heat (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit).  Place the skewers on the grill.  Grill the skewers about two minutes per side.

3.  Plate the dish.   Place a couple of squid bodies on a plate, with a couple of the tentacles.  Spoon the sauce over the squid. Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

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