June 29, 2012

Summer Salad with Calamari

It's summer. It's hot.  Sometimes we just don't feel like putting in a lot of effort slaving over the stove to get dinner on the table.  Inspired by many of the salads in A Homemade Life, we decided to keep things simple one night last week while still experimenting a bit by including a new-to-our-kitchen protein: calamari.

My tubular friend. That I ate.

There are three easy steps involved in putting this salad together- the dressing, the base, and the protein.  A put me in charge of making the dressing, which actually has more ingredients than the salad itself.  I soaked two chopped garlic cloves in a few tablespoons of rice vinegar for a few minutes before whisking in the juice and zest of one lemon, a small handful of chopped Italian herbs (parsley, thyme, and oregano), two teaspoons of honey and a 1/3 of a cup of olive oil.  Nothing out of the ordinary- just a great basic dressing with a well-balanced flavor profile.

While I put together the dressing, A assembled the base of the salad.  Because there are only a few ingredients, they all need to provide something special.  A bag of baby arugula provided a subtly spicy background flavor that added a lot of body.  We also picked up a pricey tub of goat milk feta from DiBruno's- this cheese was a fusion of a typical harder, salty Feta and the softer, crumbly mild goat cheese that I know and love.  Any high quality mild cheese would work here, depending on what you have on hand or what you like.

 To punch up the flavor of a carton of grape tomatoes, we sauteed them in olive oil and a sprinkle of salt until they started to soften- about five minutes.  This enhances the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and takes out the sometimes startling "popping" characteristic.

I also prepped the calamari itself.  We purchased pre-cleaned tubes of squid, but there are plenty of tutorials on how to gut clean and disassemble a whole squid for cooking.  All I had to do was chop the tubes into half-inch rings.  The meat is pretty tough- some recipes calling for a few light tenderizing pounds with a kitchen mallet- but a sharp knife was all I needed.

After the tomatoes came out of the pan, we threw the calamari in and added half a lemons worth of juice.  The rings puff up like pasta and took on a white color- the cooking process is extremely quick.  Overcooking causes the calamari to be tough and chewy; these needed no more than three to four minutes at medium heat.

Assemble the three components, add a thick slice of toasted and buttered bread (we recommend an extra seedy variety for some added crunch) and dinner is on the table.  No oven, minimal prep and stove work, 15 minutes max.

Everything played a supporting role in building a fantastic meal- tender calamari, sweet tomatoes, salty creamy cheese, and spicy greens.  A little acid and an herbal component from the dressing tied everything together.  Cooking the calamari was a breeze, and it's a relatively cheap source of protein (three dollars for three servings?) that adds a little flare of uniqueness to this summery salad.  We're definitely keeping some easy salads in mind during summer meal planning!


  1. Where did you get the squid? Looks delish!

  2. We bought it at DiBruno's (18th Street location)-- they pre-clean it and sell it for $3-$4 a pound (at the meat/seafood counter).

  3. That's not calamari, it's pig intestines at that size (!) & price.