Saturday, March 18, 2006

Two Minute Calamari

Two minute calamari. She thought that sounded excellent since she didn't have much free time. And she hated it when people said, as they often do, that they just don't have time to cook and that's why they use packaged food. No, she wasn't going to surrender to "convenience" food.

Hightail it to Whole Foods for ingredients
Scallions - check. Examine 25 boxes of couscous - none say Israeli. Head for the bins. Pine nuts, currants - check. Proudly displayed next to the barley is - Israeli couscous - check. This is going to be easy. Still missing calamari and caperberries.

Approximately 30 minutes.
Jam over to Lunardi's.
Trip up and down all the aisles looking for capers. Find them in the last aisle. Beautiful fat caperberries from Spain. No calamari.

Approximately 25 minutes.
Decide to seek the calamari at the gigantic Chinese grocery store, 99 Ranch Market 13 miles away. Not sure which of 2 streets it is on. Choose the wrong one. Head back. Finally locate the store.
Rush to the fish counter. Yes! They have baby squid, but they aren't nice and white and cleaned like she remembered them. Oh well, buy them anyway.

Approximately 1 hour.
Decide it is now too late to make this dish since, upon closer examination of the recipe, they realize that one of the ingredients takes 45 minutes to make ( the tomato sauce). L. makes whole wheat fettucine with baby spinach and black olives and capers instead.

22 hours later.

Prepare tomato sauce.
Grate carrot. Gather from garden and chop 3 Tblsp fresh thyme, garlic, onion. Sauce thickens as savory aroma wafts through the house.
Approximately 1 hour 5 minutes.
Gradually sinks in that squid needs to be cleaned. Research how to clean squid. Find great directions in Professional Chef, the Culinary Institute of America.

Approximately 8 minutes.
Clean and prepare one and one half pounds of baby squid.
Approximately 20 minutes including time spent staring at them, not really wanting to pull the heads off and then bravely stepping up to the task.
Prepare the Israeli couscous.
Easy except for the ice bath. Our bagged ice is one solid lump. Attempt to pound this diamond-like substance into smaller chunks. Warm up smarting hands under hot water and perch pan on top of bag and hope for the best.

Approximately 15 minutes.
Assemble and cook pine nuts, currants and red pepper flakes. Slice scallions.
Approximately 4 minutes.
Cook calamari.
Stir in the prepared squid.

Total time for 2 minute Calamari : 25 hours 49 minutes.

But it was worth it. Delicate calamari rings backstroking through a sweet, sour, hot, nutty dish. Now that she is an expert at cleaning squid, she can't wait to make it again.

Recipe from Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes 4 cups

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 spanish onion ( I substituted a yellow onion)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 28 oz. cans peeled whole tomatoes
Kosher salt to taste
  • Heat olive oil over medium heat in a 3 quart sauce pan. Add onion and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garlic slices.
  • Add the thyme and carrot and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • With your hands, crush the tomatoes and add them with their juices. Bring to a boil, stirring often, and then lower the heat and simmer from 30 minutes.
  • Add salt to taste.

  • This sauce holds for 1 week in the fridge and for up to 6 months in the freezer.

    Two Minute Calamari
    1 cup Israeli couscous
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    2 tablespoons pine nuts
    2 tablespoons currants
    1/2 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes (Batali calls for 1 T pepper flakes, which makes it Very Hot)
    1/4 cup caperberries
    2 cups Mario's Basic Tomato Sauce
    1 1/2 pounds cleaned calamari, tubes cut into 1/4 inch rounds, tentacles halved
    Fresh ground pepper to taste
    3 scallions, thinly sliced
      Cook the couscous in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and plunge into an ice bath. When cooled, set aside to dry on a plate.
    • Heat olive oil in medium saute pan until just smoking. Add the pine nuts, currants, and red pepper flakes and saute until the nuts are just golden brown, about 2 minutes. Watch carefully - this can happen very quickly.
    • Add the caperberries, tomato sauce, and couscous and bring to a boil.
    • Add the calamari. Stir to mix and simmer for 2 minutes or so, until the calamari is just cooked and completely opaque.
    • Season with salt, plate and sprinkle with scallions.


    Blogger MM said...

    Hilarious! Yes, I've been caught in my own delusion of cooking a "quick" dish before but fortunately they invariably taste so good I do not begrudge the time spent. That two min calamari looks heavenly.

    3:21 AM  
    Blogger Heidi said...

    Hello MM - I agree - it is time worth spent - we especially enjoyed this one. And if you make the tomato sauce in advance it really isn't too hard. Thanks for stopping by!


    10:52 PM  

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