May 22, 2015

Recipe: Amazing Restaurant Style Fried Calamari

I miss being here.  I really do.  It's been an exciting and wonderful year teaching High School Culinary Arts, and even though I'll miss my students and my classroom, it will be nice to get back to some regular posting and sharing here over the summer.  Thank you for sticking around during my hiatus!

We still have one week of school before summer officially begins, and to give the students some extra credit to bring up their semester grades, my friend Amanda, a Marine Science teacher, and I collaborated on a lunchtime lesson.  Using squid pulled out of our bay by a local family, she led a dissection lab.  After, I led a lesson in how to make the perfect deep fried calamari -- the kind with the golden brown, crispy crunchy coating you get in good restaurants.

If you have access to fresh or frozen calamari (squid) in your area, give this recipe a try.  It's so easy and is so delicious that you don't even need a dipping sauce -- just a squeeze of fresh lemon!

Restaurant-style Fried Calamari

A large saucepan filled with at least 3 inches of a neutral oil (like vegetable or sunflower)
1 pound cleaned squid (approx. 2 pounds uncleaned), cut into thick rings and tentacles
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, finely grated
1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for garnish

Helpful tools:  A wire cooling rack, 2 slotted spoons, a candy thermometer

1.  Wash and dry the cleaned squid rings and tentacles.   Place buttermilk in a shallow bowl.  Add squid and allow to sit while you prepare the seasoned flour.

2.  In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, onion powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, cheese, parsley and black pepper.  Use a small whisk or spoon to stir to combine.

3.  Heat oil in a large saucepan to 380° F.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer a portion of the buttermilk soaked squid to the large bowl of flour mixture, shaking off excess buttermilk before making the move.  (You will fry the squid in several batches.  Use caution not to overcrowd the frying oil.)

4.  Toss the bowl, allowing the squid pieces to separate and become coated in flour.  Remove with slotted spoon and transfer to the hot oil.  Cook until squid is golden brown.

5.  Transfer the cooked squid to a cooling rack placed over paper towels or a baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining batches of  squid.

6.  Transfer calamari to a serving plate.  Garnish with fresh lemon wedges and more minced parsley.

April 28, 2015

Recipe: Linguini with Calamari & Clams {and how to make squid ink pasta}

Last week, I taught my advanced culinary students to clean fresh Monterey Bay squid and how to cook clams.  At the same time, we made homemade linguini.  We tinted one of the batches with squid ink, which made it turn a lovely black color.  To bring all the ingredients together, we created a black and white pasta dish with fresh garlic, white wine, calamari, clams, fresh Roma tomatoes and kalamata olives.   We all agreed that if we'd ordered this in a restaurant, we'd be back again the next night.  Here's our recipe:

Black & White Linguine with Fresh Clams & Calamari
Prep: 20 mins

Total Time: 35 mins
Servings: 4-6

8 ounces fresh linguine*
8 ounces squid ink linguine (recipe below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced small
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound small clams (approximately 20-22), such as Manila, rinsed and scrubbed 
1/2 pound fresh calamari, cut into rings and tentacles
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped 
Kosher Salt to taste

1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta al dente. Drain pasta. Set aside. 

2. While pasta cooks, heat oil over medium in a Dutch oven or 5-quart heavy pot with a lid. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until garlic begins to turn fragrant (but not brown).

3. Add wine, and bring to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. 

4. Stir in calamari, then add clams; cover, and simmer, shaking pot occasionally, until clams open wide, 3 to 5 minutes. (Discard any that haven’t opened after 5 minutes.) 

5. Add pasta to seafood mixture in pot along with tomatoes and olives; cook about 2 minutes, allowing the sauce to reduce slightly and be absorbed by the linguini. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

* You can replace the fresh pastas with regular dried pasta from the grocery store.  You can buy dried squid ink pasta online, or if you want to make your own, you can find the ink online as well.  

Homemade Squid Ink Pasta
makes 1 pound

1. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 3 Tablespoons water, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and 2 Tablespoons squid ink.

2.  Form 3 cups flour into a mound on a clean work surface; create a well in center. Add the egg mixture to the well.

2. Using a fork, incorporate eggs mixture in a gentle, circular motion, pulling in small amounts of flour until dough becomes stiff.

3. Knead dough, adding a little flour as necessary, to prevent sticking, until it's smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap; let rest for 30 minutes.

4. Cut dough into quarters.

5. Flatten 1 quarter into a rectangle (cover others with a towel). Pass dough through a hand-cranked pasta roller set at widest setting. (This can also be done by hand).

6. Fold dough in thirds, creating another rectangle; feed open edge through roller set at widest setting. Fold again; roll twice more using same setting. Decrease setting one notch and roll pasta through again; repeat, decreasing setting by one notch each time until you've reached the second-to-last setting, creating a 1⁄16"-thick sheet.

7. Sprinkle sheet with flour; halve crosswise. Transfer to flour-dusted parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough, adding flour-dusted parchment paper between each layer.

8. Tightly roll each sheet, from short end to short end; cut cylinder crosswise into linguini-size strips (approx. 1/4"-wide), or use the setting on your pasta roller.

9. Unroll strips and toss with flour; spread on a floured parchment sheet. Let dry for 15 minutes.

April 11, 2015

Recipe: Risotto with Zucchini and Sundried Tomatoes


Risotto is a wonderful and versatile rice dish that hails from Northern Italy and showcases the best attributes of the short-grain Arborio rice.  Sadly, over the years, it's earned a reputation for being difficult to make at home.  With the wrong recipe, this is true, but I'm pleased to tell you that there are risotto recipes out there that are authentic, restaurant quality, and downright easy. 

Last week in my culinary arts class, I led twelve teams of high school students in making risotto.  All twelve teams turned out their risottos to perfection.  I'm happy to be sharing our recipe with you today.  I adapted our recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Risotto with Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms (March 1994).  

Capitalizing on spring colors and flavors, we substituted zucchini and sundried tomatoes for the asparagus and wild mushrooms.  We garnished our risotto with toasted pine nuts (for crunch, color and toastiness) and a drizzle of lemon olive oil.  The lemon olive oil took the dish to the next level with its brightness. 

Risotto with Zucchini and Sundried Tomatoes

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, browned in 1 teaspoon butter, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces fresh sundried tomatoes, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 pound fresh zucchini, washed and cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 3.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth, combined with 3 cups water (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for passing 
  • Lemon infused olive oil for garnish (optional) 
  • Minced parsley for garnish (optional)

Step 1:   In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 teaspoon butter. Saute pine nuts until gold brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 2:  Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet. Add zucchini and tomatoes; sauté until zucchini pieces are almost tender and begin to turn yellow (about 7 minute). Stir in ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Remove vegetable mixture to a small bowl covered with foil and set aside.
Step 3:  Heat oil in now empty skillet. Add onions; sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions soften (3 to 5 minutes).  

Step 4:  Stir in rice and 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste. Add 3 cups of the broth/water mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until pan bottom is dry when rice is pulled back with spoon, 8 to 10 minutes.
Step 5:  Add wine, stirring frequently until absorbed. Then add 1/2 cup of the broth/water mixture at a time, stirring constantly and vigorously until each addition is absorbed; cook until rice is creamy but still somewhat firm in center (add water in 1/2 cup increments until broth/water mixture runs out), 10 to 12 minutes longer. 

Step 6:  Remove from heat and stir in vegetable mixture and cheese. If risotto becomes to stiff, stir in more water or stock to attain desired consistency. 

Step 7:  To serve, plate and garnish with more grated cheese, toasted pine nuts, minced parsley and a drizzle of lemon olive oil  (trust me, you won't regret this addition).  Enjoy!

To reheat the next day, warm in a microwave, then stir in a small amount of boiling water or stock till desired consistency is attained.

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