Sunday, July 31, 2011

grilled calamari and nectarine salad

squid and nectarine salad
i'm pretty sure it's not cool to admit,
but i love my reality tv. and even less cool
to admit: i'm a fan of the food network.

are there food celebrities who i cannot stand?

are there recipes that make me
stand up and yell at the tv, accusing the
chefs of misleading the not-so-knife-savvy
that they can chop two onions and 3 cloves
of garlic in the time that it takes a tablespoon
of olive oil to warm itself?

are there times
that larry has to listen to 5 minutes of my
amazement that a chef will cut an avocado
and then tell us to use it as a garnish when
the stew will not be ready to be served for thirty minutes?

but, i'm still a fan of the food network.
i love that they've been a huge part of the
cooking movement, inspiring people to
get back to the kitchen, or more likely,
getting them into the kitchen for the first time.

i believe in a network that makes food fun
and cooking less of a chore and is trying,
very slowly, but surely to offer up a bit
of diversity, in the dishes and the chefs
they are offering.

and, i loved when they bit the bullet
and offered up their form of reality tv,
several years ago, with the
next food network star. i have watched
every season, and often - as is very unusual
with most reality television - my early
pick has won. (fingers crossed that the
streak continues - susie and jeff,
i'm pulling for you two.)

last year was no exception.
i loved aarti from the beginning,
as much for her fun personality
as my recent interest in indian food.
and, she herself was a food
blogger. the day after she won,
my mom texted me and said,
already scheduled the dvr to record
aarti's first show!

while i'll admit that it's rare,
these days that i'm watching tv on saturday
mornings, i'm thrilled when i am home and
am able to turn on the tv in time to catch
an episode. i always learn something or
get an idea for my own food.

and last weekend, when i caught less
than 5 minutes of her show before having
to run out to meet my family for breakfast,
that was all it took to decide what i was
making for dinner the following night.
nectarine wedges
she was pulling nectarine wedges off
a grill pan and adding them
to a bed of lemony greens, along with
garlicky squid. it was the kind of salad
i would have ordered without a second thought
on any day in a restaurant.

but, knowing that it had been nearly 100
degrees for days and that the last thing
either of us really wanted to do was
serious sunday night-cooking, this salad
seemed inevitable. in the best possible way.

while we have a grill that we use regularly,
we really wouldn't have wanted to head outside. i was so glad that
the recipe actually said to use a grill pan. sometimes,
i need a little pat on the back, a little that's-ok. and right
there, telling me that i could use a grill pan, that i didn't have
to go through the trouble of threading the teeny squid
onto soaked skewers and cook the nectarines in a basket,
that made the recipe extra appealing.

and here's the funny thing: when i cook a dish
for the first time, i obsess about it until
it's on the plate in front of me. i think about
what it will taste like, what it will look like,
if i should change the chives to scallions or
use almonds instead of pine nuts. i think about
it as i'm cooking it and still, i find myself making
changes even when i should be finished
and am one second away from
tossing it into a bowl.

but, with this recipe, there was none of that.
ok, maybe it's more fair to say there was very little
of that. i guess the truths are this:
the salad looked good.
i guess, as it turns out, i trust aarti
(i've yet to see her cut an avocado too early).
none of the ingredients were so tempting to mess with.
squid, drying
so, i bought the squid.
(coolest thing: the store divided the squid between
two trays: bodies and tentacles so i was able to ask
for a 50/50 ratio). i picked up two nectarines.
i grabbed arugula, a lemon and a few very juicy limes.
and that was it. the rest i had at home.
lime, halved
i prepared the ingredients, staying pretty close to
recipe with just a few tiny alterations. first -
and it pains me to say this - i had a lot of trouble
reading the recipe. several times, the recipe writer
in me wanted to stop, rewrite the recipe and then
make it. so, ultimately, i think i made everything
the way that it was intended, but i can't be sure.
also, there was this: the recipe called for
a couple pinches of a couple different spices and
when it comes to seasoning, i always believe
in going (carefully) bolder. and, because
we were eating this as our meal,
i added an extra nectarine.

but, i don't want you to think that i have any
complaints: we loved this salad. it was garlicky
and citrus-laced and, even with the extra spice,
still delicately kissed with garam masala.
but, all of the flavors managed to share the spotlight
without competing. the nectarines were really
amazing on the grill and the calamari, cooked
exactly as instructed, were tender and lightly
charred and easily the centerpiece of the dish.
grilled tentacle
it was the kind of summer salad, that as i was
eating it, i was thinking about the next time
i could make it. and it's the kind of dish, that
as i was writing this, larry came up and said,
that was really good. i hope we can make it again.

it's the reason that i refuse to apologize for
my love of the food network and my love of reality
tv. without either, i never would have found
aarti party. or, this salad. or, these recipes:
squid and nectarine salad
grilled calamari and nectarine salad
adapted from aarti party
as i said, i made a few changes to this recipe, but nothing major: i upped the number of nectarines from 1 to 2 and i used a good amount of garam masala compared to what was called for, in the marinade. a couple changes that i may make next time: i was not sure how necessary the lemon juice was (it's tossed with arugula), because i thought that the lime-garlic marinade was substantial enough to carry the dish. i'm including it below, so that you can make the decision. i also, loved (loved, loved) the tentacles and i may be 100% tentacles the next time around.

ok, when i just went to write up this recipe, it turns out that i may have left out the cumin. honestly, i don't remember putting it in, but i know that i read everything several times before i started cooking, so maybe i did? (i'm sure this is instilling a lot of trust.) i'm not putting it the ingredient list because i really don't think i used it, but if you want to add it in, use 1/2 teaspoon.

3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 juicy limes, halved
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for grilling
2 generous pinches tumeric
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2-3 pinches red chile flakes
kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 large firm, but ripe, nectarines, pitted and cut into 6ths
1 pound baby squid, cleaned (tubes and tentacles) and patted dry
4 really large handfuls arugula, washed and dried
1/2 lemon, juiced

on cutting board, very finely chop garlic; sprinkle generously with kosher salt. let sit 5 minutes; using the back of your knife, mash the garlic to form a paste. place garlic in the bowl; juice the lime into the bowl. add the cumin (if using), tumeric, garam masala and red pepper flakes; whisk in the olive oil. season with salt and pepper.

transfer 3 tablespoons garlic marinade to small mixing bowl; add squid, tossing to coat. set aside.

heat grill pan over high heat. drizzle nectarines lightly with olive oil.

place nectarines on grill; cook 1 minute on each side, or until grill marks appear. (for me, by the time i put all of the nectarines down, it was time to turn the first ones.) transfer nectarines to plate.

make sure that the grill pan is still very, very hot. remove the squid from the marinade, letting the excess marinade drip off (discard any marinade remaining in that bowl). place squid on the grill, one piece at a time. cook 6 minutes, turning once. (if you are worried that the squid is overcooking as i was, here's 2 tricks, one from aarti, one from me. from aarti: if the squid sticks, it's not ready. give it 30 more seconds. from me: take one off the grill pan and taste it.)

remove the squid from the marinade. using a sharp knife, cut bodies into rings. toss hot tentacles and rings with the remaining garlic marinade.

toss the arugula with the lemon juice. divide among plates; top with grilled nectarines, grilled squid and the marinade mixture, if desired.

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