Tuesday, February 10, 2009

the power of suggestion

sunday afternoon, i spoke to my mom.
she mentioned a turkey roasting in 
her oven. sweet potatoes on the counter
would either be
and then to cap it all off,
she was making pearl onions in a
cream sauce.

pearl onions. i have a new found love 
for the tiny little globes.
in spite of the fact,
that i'm sure we must have eaten 
them growing up,
i feel i only start recognizing them,
appreciating them,
and now, 
craving them,

that was all it took -
i'm very easy to convince -
i wanted pearl onions.
that night.

i've often been
roped into ordering a meal
i would only mildly consider thanks to 
of a small dollop of guacamole, 
the addition of charred corn, 
roasted poblano peppers,
a sprinkling of coconut 
or the promise of lime. 

i've watched a commercial 
that focuses on crab legs and think of little
else until i'm able to steam them myself or
get to a restaurant. 

and i have craved diet soda 
so badly before i went to sleep, 
that it was the first thing that 
popped into my head when i woke up -
um, ok, maybe that last one is more 
of what some people might call an addiction.

don't even start me on ikura
my all time favorite and top repeat offender

s0 when the pearl onions
were put in my head, i knew i had to 
incorporate them into dinner.
i also knew that i didn't have an extra
turkey hanging around and that a saucepan
of pearl onions - even if i added a cream sauce -

then, i thought of a sara moulton recipe, 
that i made last year when stuck 
inside on a snow day, 
had a lot of time to
monkey around in the kitchen - 
and was out one bag of pearl onions, 
fresh or frozen.
but made it anyway, 
with a sweet walla walla.

the squid stew! i had been meaning to make it again,
with modifications that you can only
decide are a good idea
after preparing a recipe 
and coincidentally, i had been jonesing for 
fried calamari for days 
(one in particular, actually...from a restaurant
in boston 
that we visited for my sister's 
grad school graduation 
- they fry pieces of 
hot peppers 
in with the seafood
so the mixture is
crunchy and 
spicy and 
but i digress). 
while this dish is almost 
unrecognizable to those
who know squid only be
be fried and dipped in
its tender rings 
would most likely make 
any seafood lover, 
a convert.

i'm crazy for a good plan,
especially one, like this one,
that involves
tons of garlic,
red pepper flakes,
white wine 
a slowish simmer on a 
cold february day.

this stew, is not particularly
time consuming, but it's not a 
flash in the pan either. you have
to dice an onion, peel and slice 
10 cloves of garlic (yes, 10) 
and cut and dry 
the tubes and tentacles. once 
all the ingredients 
are in the pan, softened
and bubbly,
you simmer for 45 minutes. 
and there are 
a couple other steps, 
like cooking the 
pearl onions, 
halving olives and 
prepping artichokes. 
but its the best kind of recipe 
because all of these things are finished
before your stew-timer has even buzzed.

i've made a few,
sanity-saving changes,
by switching the whole artichokes,
which the original recipe asks you
to trim,
cut into pieces,
to jarred. in this application,
i think (or like to believe, anyway),
it is totally acceptable. i've also, believing
that i have acquired enough experience
peeling pearl onions,
exchanged the fresh for half a bag of frozen,
used kalamata and large green olives
instead of nicoise,
a red onion for yellow,
reduced the olive oil significantly,
added red pepper flakes for heat,
oregano for flavor,
lemon juice for brightness.

oh, as for the first 
photo in this post. 
this stew is light 
and, yet pleasantly filling, surprisingly tender 
and textured, 
full of flavor,
ideally absorbed with warm crusty bread  
and bursting with exciting ingredients.
it is all that.
but it is
not especially
pretty - up close - in front of a 

mediterranean squid stew with pearl onions, artichokes and olives
adapted from sara moulton and gourmet magazine
your fishmonger should sell cleaned squid, so don't worry about that part of it. after you cut the tubes into rings, it is very important to dry the squid well (then check the paper towel for errant pieces - those little things are clingy). if there's a lot of extra moisture when they hit the pan, they'll expell their liquid and steam, rather than saute. this took me a couple of rounds of paper towels. also, the orignal recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of canned tomatoes, drained and diced. i prefer to (wash my hands), and use my fingers to break up the tomatoes right in the pot. i think it's less structured, and honestly, less messy this way. just make sure to squeeze low down in the pot so that your walls do not get splattered.

2 pounds cleaned squid, bodies cut into rings and tentacles left whole
3 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (depending on your heat preference)
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 can (32 oz.) whole, peeled plum tomatoes, like San Marzano
1 cup white wine
8 oz. frozen pearl onions
1 jar (12 oz.) quartered artichokes (not marinated)
1/2 cup pitted kalamata and green olives, halved
1/2 lemon, juiced 

dry calamari well. in large heavy pot over medium heat, warm 2 Tbs. olive oil and red pepper flakes. when hot, add onions; cook onions 5 minutes, stirring occassionally, or until onions are translucent. add garlic, thyme and oregano; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. add calamari and cook 2 minutes more, stirring occassionally. add white wine. add chopped tomatoes into pot or use your hands to break them up inside the pot. add liquid from can. bring to a boil; cover. reduce heat to low and simmer 45 minutes.

in small saucepan, combine remaining olive oil and pearl onions. add enough water so that onions are halfway submerged. bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, partially-covered, 15 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated and onions are slightly glazed. set aside. drain and rinse artichokes. drain and rinse olives (to reduce the saltiness). 

when the 45 minutes are up, uncover the stew and boil for a few minutes to thicken, if necessary (watch the squid to make sure they don't toughen). stir in glazed pearl onions, artichokes and olives. let cook 3o seconds. stir in lemon juice. remove from heat and ladle into bowls.

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