Many individuals are intimidated with calamari simply because it is not a common ingredient in the typical American diet. Ergo, let us learn how to sauté the seafood, with a basic recipe:
1 pound cleaned squid
2 teaspoons garlic - minced
1 medium shallot - chopped
1 Tablespoon rosemary - chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt, pepper - to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
Add EVOO to a medium hot sauté pan and sweat the shallots and garlic until tender (about 4 minutes). Stir constantly to prevent burning. While cooking, season the calamari with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and rosemary. Turn the sauté pan to high heat and continue to stir the shallot/garlic mixture to prevent burning. When the oil begins to smoke, add the seasoned calamari. Sautéed calamari is finished when it just turns firm and opaque in color (only about 1-2 minutes). Remove from the heat and squeeze the lemon over the cooked calamari.
Not as intimidating as you would think, eh?
To accompany the sautéed calamari, I paired a smokey chickpea puree (could also use hummus), as well as candied walnuts to provide a textured crunch.
Summer is not the only season for salads... shaved root vegetables and selected fruits provide fresh, light and healthy alternatives to brighten your daily diet. For example, in a large bowl, add shaved cauliflower (may use a variety of colors - green, white, yellow and purple), bell pepper (red, orange, yellow), fennel bulb, mango, grapefruit supremes and mâché leaves (may substitute arugula). Season lightly with smokey paprika, smoked sea salt, pinch of cayenne pepper and a drizzle of lemon juice, EVOO, almond oil and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (the acid from the lemon juice, in conjuncture with the oils, will soften the root vegetables to a palatable texture when consumed).
Adding minimal key ingredients can transform one dish into a completely new entity. For example: the basic chickpea puree that I had paired with the calamari appetizer earlier? By adding a touch of horseradish and Dijon mustard to the puree, it suddenly becomes a more sophisticated enhancement to duck breast. The heat behind the horseradish will absorb into the crispy duck skin when consumed, creating a more rich and svelte overall dish. Simply sides will amplify the game meat: roasted peal onions, a few slices of avocado (provides a natural creamy note) and sprinkle of duck jus from the cooked protein. Refined, simple, yet multifarious in composition.
All in all, it gets the job done.
Last, but certainly not least: rosemary/honey/blue cheese-roasted figs with vanilla bean bourbon sabayon and crumbled candied almonds.
In a medium sauce pan, add 1 cup of orange-blossom honey, 1/4 cup crumble blue cheese, 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary and 2 Tbsp bourbon. Add the figs and allow the honey to boil on the stove top. Once boiling, place the sauce pan in the oven and allow the figs to roast. Fully-cooked when figs are tender and juicy... fully absorbing the rich rosemary/honey/blue cheese/bourbon combination.
While the figs are roasting, prepare the vanilla bean bourbon sabayon. Sabayon is the French name for zabaglione... essentially a light, mousse-like Italian dessert that's made by whisking eggs, sugar and white wine over gently boiling water until the eggs thicken into a creamy sauce.
8 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp bourbon whiskey
1 Tbsp Madagascar vanilla bean paste
4 cups heavy cream
Rather than making a traditional sabayon, I prefer using hard-alcohol in order to give the sauce a more aggressive, yet not overpowering, kick. Enter in bourbon, stage left.
The only trick about sabayon? Knowing when "enough is enough." As an artist (let's face it, chefs are artists... our medium is food and a white plate is our blank canvas), it can be a challenge to know "when to stop." Perfectionism haunts the lives of many artistic individuals. However, a sabayon not only teaches patience (I will not lie, it takes a decent amount of time to cook), but also discernment in knowing when enough time has lapsed. In a large stainless steel bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Add the whiskey and vanilla, then place the stainless steel bowl over a hot water bath (the water bath should be simmering, but never boiling... otherwise the temperature will be too hot and immediately overcook the delicate eggs). Whisk constantly in order to slowly cook the egg yolks. The yolks should transform into a thick, pale yellow sauce... ribbon-like in consistency. If you cook the sauce for too long or the heat is too high, then the eggs will curdle and transform into scrambled eggs. Fret not if this occurs... try, try again. Practice makes perfect. Or at least pretty damn close to perfection as possible.
Chill the cooked sabayon base in the refrigerator for an hour. After the base has cooled, whip the heavy cream in a large bowl until it forms thick peaks. Gently fold the whipped-cream into the chilled sabayon base. Et puis, voila. Parfait.
When plating, spoon a generous amount of sabayon onto a white plate, then top with the roasted figs. A touch of crumbled candied almonds is the final necessary crunch to tickle the palate and transform the dish from sweet into sophisticated.
Work with finesse, plate with grace and cook with love.
“Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.” - Jean-Luc Godard