Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Grilled Calamari, Chickpea and Fresh Basil Salad with Chilli Lime Vinaigrette

I am proud to welcome Denise Fletcher, the author of the book Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night. Her knowledge of the kitchen is only rivalled by her uncanny wit and beguiling charisma. I am glad I can call her a friend. The blog absolutely got much smarter tonight. Enjoy!

Hello Lazaro Cooks readers and followers! I’m Denise and I blog at Quickies on The Dinner Table. I’m proud to say I’m a friend and big fan of Lazaro, who has very kindly and graciously invited me to do a guest post. I was so flattered when he approached me with the idea and I am honoured and happy to be contributing to this stellar blog, the brainchild of Lazaro and Nancy. Lazaro is nothing if not a gentleman and a generous soul and has given me cart blanche to post whatever I am happy to.

In keeping with my kitchen philosophy of quick, easy and delicious, I have for you a dish that is very simple to put together but one that I hope you will find a delightful mix of bold flavours, vibrant colours and richly contrasting textures. It's a spicy Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern hybrid, featuring grilled calamari, tender chickpeas, a handful of racy spices, refreshing cucumber to balance the heat, and a finishing flourish of fresh, wondrously fragrant basil leaves. Of course, you won't find this anywhere in Southeast Asia or the Middle East as it's something I concocted to calm constant cravings for calamari, cucumber, cumin.....and alliteration ; )


Before I go on to the recipe, I'd like to add that while many seem to almost fear calamari or squid, and resolutely refuse to go anywhere near it, for me, it's one of the most gratifying of edible delights. The thing about calamari (trust the Italians to make even monstrous looking squid sound romantic) is that it has to be fleetingly cooked over a fierce flame or lovingly and lengthily simmered over the gentlest heat, if you are to enjoy it at its best. Anything in between will leave you with something best given to teething pups to ease their itching gums with.

Calamari should shimmer like glass, have bulging, shiny, jet-dark eyes, and smell pleasantly of the sea. Choose midsized ones as anything over 15 cm (6 in) in length, excluding tentacles, will tend to be chewy. When washing the internal cavity, make a sizeable snip with sharp scissors at the pointed end of its body, so that when you rinse the inside, any grit or sand will easily wash out. Drain and dry very well so they will crisp up nicely when grilled. If you're squeamish, your fishmonger will be happy to clean them for you. Just ask! Alright then, on to the recipe.

Prep 30 mins Cook 5 mins Serves 4 as a light main course or 6 as a starter


Ingredients
8 medium sized calamari, clean, wash, drain and cut into broad strips or slices
1 Tbsp light vegetable oil (soy, canola, or grape seed)
1 can well drained cooked chickpeas
2 medium Japanese cucumbers, halve lengthwise and slice across thickly or as desired2 handfuls sweet basil leaves (or whatever kind you can get) reserve a few for garnishing
A little flaky sea salt (I like Maldon sea salt) for garnishing
A little freshly ground black pepper for garnishing
1 scant tsp cumin seeds, toast and coarsely crush, for garnishing

Dressing
6 fresh large red chillies, discard seeds and cut up roughly
1 tsp hot red chilli flakes (optional - for extra heat)
2 shallots, peel and cut up roughly (use 1 very small regular onion if unavailable)
2 fat cloves garlic, peel
2 Tbsp lime juice (or to taste)
2 Tbsp light vegetable oil
1 ¼ level tsp salt (or to taste)
½ level tsp sugar (or to taste)

• Preheat electric grill on "High", if you have one. If you don't, use a stove top grill plate.

• Prepare dressing by combining all the ingredients in a blender and processing to a sauce-like but not overly smooth consistency. I find a stick blender works best for this. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, playing around with salt, sugar and lime juice until you get a nice balance of spicy, sour, salty and ever so slightly, sweet. Cover and chill until needed.

• If using a grill plate, heat on stove. Combine calamari and oil and toss until coated. Check grill. When very hot, lay calamari slices on it in an even layer and cook until calamari begins to turn white and grill marks have formed. Flip over slices and cook other side very quickly. Total grilling time should not exceed 3 minutes for both sides. Remove from grill and cool on a fine wire mesh cake rack. If you put them on a plate while hot, they will start to leak their juices and turn soggy.

• In a large, clean mixing bowl combine cooled calamari slices, chickpeas, sliced cucumbers and most of the basil leaves. Pour over the dressing and toss gently so basil leaves don’t bruise. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

• To serve, divide salad amongst four plates or bowls. Garnish each portion with a few of the reserved basil leaves and a tiny sprinkling each of flaky sea salt, black pepper and crushed cumin seeds. Serve immediately.


Note on Japanese Cucumbers : These are dark green, thin skinned, slim cucumbers with very tiny seeds and firm, crunchy, juicy flesh. They are mildly sweet with no trace of bitterness. They come from Japan and are my favourite cucumber variety. Use whatever variety is available to you, as long as you enjoy it.


Drink Pairings: For whites, I would suggest Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer if in a flighty mood. For reds, a dry, fizzy Italian Lambrusco or a Rhone Valley rose such as Tavel. If you don't like wine, a really cold, Asian beer is never wrong with spicy seafood. Alcohol a no-no? Cold San Pellegrino with a lime wedge would totally rock this.

58 comments:

  1. Many disparate ingredients combine to form a fantastic dish. Love the cook that can make a product like squid acessible. Great tips on the drinks too. Well-rounded indeed. Fabulous. Thank you!

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  2. Hi, just about to shut my laptop down and guess what happens, your recipe just pops up.
    Now, I just won`t be able to sleep, calamaris are just one of my favourite food.
    I am really looking forward to get back home (Portugal) and to be able to enjoy eating this delicacy.
    Your dish looks awesome.
    Bye for now, I am going to try to sleep.
    Take care x

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  3. VERY appetising! Nice with a bowl of rice...

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  4. This looks soooooooooooo good! Bet it tastes even better!

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  5. what an incredible recipe!! Perfect pairing of the calamari with the salad ingredients. Extremely well written and easy to understand...
    in other words....I love it!!!
    All the Best
    Dennis

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  6. I LOVE all of the flavors going on in this dish!!! Calamari along with Chickpeas, Fresh Basil and Chilli Lime Vinaigrette...Great Comobination!!! YUM!

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  7. That looks great Denise! But you called it, there is something terrifying about squid. Really scary. I mean, Ursula was a squid. I cannot trust it.

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  8. Welcome Denise! I have a true adoration for grilled calamari, so this really peaks my interest! Every time I see it on a menu, I just have to order it. It's not something I've attempted to make before now, but you make it look easy, and I think it's time I give it a whirl. This recipe sounds great too because cumin, garlic and spicy red peppers flakes are right up my alley!

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  9. This dish sounds like work of kitchen art to me, Denise. I read the entire post, and I can see by the ingredients that this is one of those delicious dishes that was born from craving and ingenuity! I crave calamari all the time by the way, so this isn't scary to me at all. Yum!
    Oh, and I love the idea of the spice with the cucumber and cumin...

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  10. Very fiery and appetizing...great mix of ingredients! You are making me crave calamari as I have not had it for a while.

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  11. This looks amazing, LOVE the vinaigrette! Can't wait to try it!

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  12. This seriously looks amazing! My husband would be so happy if he came home to this on the table. May have to try this sometime this week. Thanks!

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  13. love love denise....I love calamari but need to stay away from just fried..this is an even better approach....the dressing and the addition of chickpeas are just divine..wonderful post

    sweetlife

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  14. That is certainly a great post, as usual written like a poem, yes whatever you write Denise sounds like a poem to my French ears. Then, calamari, one of my favorite ingredients coming out of the ocean, that is an absolutely delightful dish!

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  15. This grilled calamari looks fantastic! Calamari is one of my favorite dishes!

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  16. So glad you stopped by, Denise! This is absolutely beautiful, and so nutritious. Love it! :-)

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  17. Another tantalizing dish Ms. Fletcher! Calamari can be a disastrous ingredient if left in the wrong hands but your hands seem to only create majestic dishes. How do you do it?
    One of my favorite dishes to eat is the simple deep fried salt and pepper calamari that we order at Chinese restaurants. But after seeing this spectacular recipe, that dish is child's play compared to yours. Thank you for sharing another wonderful recipe Denise :-D

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  18. Wow, I was salivating while reading your post. However, since I am vegan, I am going to take your wonderful recipe and grill up some tofu instead of squid and follow the rest of your recipe. I am so excited! Thanks so much for contributing to Lazaro Cooks, we are all very grateful!

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  19. Thank you again Lazaro and Nancy for graciously extending the invitation. Thank you everyone, for the warm welcome and your wonderful and very kind words. I hope this recipe will find its way to your kitchens and plates and that you will enjoy it.

    Nancy - I hope you enjoy the vegan version you have planned. I think I would like to try it too as my mum can't have calamari. You've inspired me and I'm even thinking of grilled tempe in place of the calamari!

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  20. Delicious! Very light and quite apporpriate for the hot climate we're in, Denise.

    Now I have to say that this is my first time seeing chickpeas and squid together. Quite interesting. You're giving me ideas here. ;)

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  21. OH WOW!
    that looks incredible!
    i've always had a fear of calamari and squid but this dish makes me want to branch out and try it!
    thanks for posting this!!!

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  22. This one's really cool,the combi and rocks and we sure do love calamari here and grilled calamari salad would be such a lovely treat:-)))
    i love the whole post and tips Denise:-)
    Cheers and this is a wonderful guest post:-)))

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  23. I just nominated you guys for an award. Pls. check the link below:

    http://kitchen-masochist.blogspot.com/2010/04/all-these-head-inflating-awards.html

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  24. Denise,this post is fantastic ,love that whole write up on Calamari's.
    We love calamari's or squids here and grilled calamari with the combi's u have to toss a salad are fantastic.

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  25. Mmm, just the recipe title pulled me in, it sounds and looks colourfully delicious! I would have to omit the chillies though, I can't handle the heat!

    Hungry Jenny x

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  26. Welcome Denise! I'm always looking for intriguing calamari recipes; grilled no less. So cool...It sounds wonderful. I too love the vinaigrette!

    Thanks for sharing...

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  27. I've never prepared calamari at home but you've inspired me to give it a try. Your presentation is lovely and looks so delicious.

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  28. What a lovely meal. I really appreciated the exploration of calamari and the footnote about the cucumber. It looks delicious. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

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  29. GREAT combo of flavors. I love that I can make this for my husband and make the same salad for me (minus the calamari- aka veg version) and it still has a good amount of protein and flavor :) Great job girl!

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  30. The grilled calamari looks excellent and I love this chilli lime dressing , yum!

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  31. I love squid, and this sounds fantastic! Great flavors in the dressing.

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  32. A very tempting and unique combination. Picture looks very appealing!

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  33. Such a beautiful dish. So light and refreshing with that spicy little kick. Those chilies look beautiful! Do you deliver???

    Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner
    www.mawhats4dinner.com

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  34. Denise, you write GORGEOUSLY. I've never hear squid and calamari described thusly (although I'm a big fan of both). I'm going to try to convince my husband to try this dish (he's not as big a fan). And, "racy spices"! :P

    And, you're right, Lazaro is quite the gentleman :)

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  35. This recipe looks awesome! And your picture is beautiful! Just found you off domestic adventurer and so glad I did...I am following! :)

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  36. Looks awesome....love the colors...!! A true work of art!

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  37. Kudos in the choice of "guest blogger". I enjoy calamari (I would say "love" but my second grade teacher said "one can never love food"). Oh heck, I love calamari! I do fear it, however, and have never attempted to secure and prepare it in my kitchen. I think this may be step 1 in my move toward taking the squid by the tentacle and putting the dish on my table.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  38. Wonderful guest post! This is a really beautiful dish! I've never made calamari before, so I'm glad for all your helpful tips. I'd love to make this dish!

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  39. My Goodness, this dish sounds like something out of this world! I love calamari, but have always been afraid to 1) slice and dice it myself and 2) cook it! But it is, hands down, my most favorite food from the sea. Thanks to your guest blogger!

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  40. Oh, calamari! This is a delight! I can imagine tangy heat from the sauce and totally agree with the Riesling & Gewurztraminer suggestions. Those would be my picks to drink!

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  41. Looks great!! I've always been a bit afraid of squid but this looks amazing!! Beautiful pictures!!

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  42. What a gorgeous and vibrant colored salad! I love the spicy vinaigrette. It's a lovely dish!

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  43. What a great post! I love the calamari recipe - sounds like its got some nice heat to it and great wine pairing suggestions too! Would love to sip a Riesling with that dish:) Love your blog, Lazaro, just signed up to follow. Stop by and visit me sometime at www.stephaniesavorsthemoment.com. Looking forward to your next post!

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  44. You just gave me an idea: I have an octopus languishing in the freezer; I am gonna make this scrumptious salad with it! Thanks!

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  45. What great flavour combinations! Wow. And the photo is tops! I think it is great that you have guest bloggers here...how cool is that?!

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  46. Denise - i can't believe you called the spices "racy"! I am giggling very hard right now...working its way to a lol... tee hee :D

    I read the title and I could picture the flavours quite vividly and then the picture solidified the greatness of your work. Amazeballs. How do you keep this brilliance rolling? I have flashes of sparks but you have flashes of comets. xoxo

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  47. The entire dish is just getting my taste buds so excited. I think it is the chili lime vinaigrette doing the trick.

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  48. Denise, it is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for doing this fabulous post on calamari salad. For years I didn't know people did anything with calamari other than fry it, until I found a calamari salad in Patricia Well's Bistro Cooking. I'll be adding this salad to my recipe box. This sounds like a great combination of flavors. I use basil more and more and grow my own.

    I'm glad you explained the Japanese cucumbers. I made a note to ask you about it and voila, you knew someone would ask and answered it before the question. I use the long, slender cucumbers a lot. I've been calling them English cucumbers all this time.

    Like many of the other readers, I enjoy your blog (I subscribe) thanks to Lazaro telling us how fabulous you were. Your book will soon be the latest addition to my growing cookbook collection.
    Sam

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  49. Hi Sam - the pleasure is entirely mine! It's been an honour and a privilege to be here, writing for a new audience, and what an audience it is! I did not expect so warm and sincere a welcome! I am very pleasantly surprised and deeply gratified.

    Thank you for following and reading. Lazaro has been an amazing friend, and it has been my great fortune to have met him! I appreciate your support more than I can say, and I truly hope that you enjoy my book as much as I have relished writing it.

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  50. I'm so glad that you stopped by my blog & introduced me to yours. This looks delicious & I'm so looking forward to looking back to see what other goodies you've shared :)

    Dawn

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  51. Your dish looks colorful, healthy and delicious. I am one of those people who have not been able to make the leap with squid or octopus. However, I agree with you that the Italians can make these sea creatures sound romantic. I have no doubt that if you put this dish in front of me I would enjoy it.

    Thank you Denise for doing a wonderful guest post.

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  52. thank you for the follow... and it's great knowing you..
    squid is one of our family's favorite.. we're not afraid of its tentacles and the goey looking dish hahah.. great job denise...

    now lazaro it's my turn to follow your blog.. here's to knowing you more! cheers!

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  53. This calamari is deliciously presented. Love it!

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  54. This looks awesome. I have never cooked with calamari at home. I might be brave enough to try this:) Great job Denise!

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  55. Great pic and recipe. Unfortunately I am on an airplane and you are making me hungry! terrific guest post!
    Pam

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  56. I only at them fried, until I moved to New Jersey and made friends with Italian community, and learned to love it cook so many other ways like in this dish. Love the look of this dish too!

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