Sunday, December 5, 2010

Calamari - A Take From Lidia

So, there I was one night sitting at the local 900 seat watering hole watching the hockey game, the bartender G, mentions to me one of the other servers was telling him about my blog and how he was enjoying a few of the recipes on here. The other fellow is D. He and I have talked a few times about this blog and food in general. This makes me a happy guy. It means there are people out there who are not only into the food thing, but they are actually reading this blog (no offense to D and G)! I'm also glad to see there are more and more people around who are experiencing the benefits of a healthy diet. As I've stated before, this is the main reason why I write this blog, to bring attention to a healthier and diet and lifestyle.

After chatting with G for a bit, he asked me where my recipes come from, do I take them from anybody in particular or are they all my own? My response was yes, I do find recipes and inspiration from others and I also have my own ideas. If you think about it, cooking shows and cookbooks wouldn't exist if chefs and foodies didn't want to share their ideas with the rest of the world. But, a person can't take another persons ideas, publish them, take credit for them and make money from them. This is called working on Wall Street... Ooops! I mean it's called plagiarism.

If you read this blog, you know I do use other peoples recipes, but I always give them the credit. I want people to appreciate where the idea came from and the person who I got it from. Besides, I don't believe I'm going to make a million dollars doing this thing (at this point anyways), so I don't want to get sued and have to pay a pile of money to someone from a bank account which is already in the red now. On that note, please support the sponsors on this page by clicking on them where they appear here. We both will be grateful and you will be supporting my "What If I Get Sued?" fund.

Most of the cooking I do is Italian or Mediterranean. It's pretty tough to invent new ideas from those areas and all of their different styles of cooking and eating, but sometimes you can put a new twist on something old. The flavours coming from those areas are exceptional. The dishes they prepare are mainly healthy and sustainable, meaning you can keep on eating what your family has been making for generation after generation and still stay healthy. If you look at a lot of the old Greek men, they smoke and drink (Ouzo, wine, whatever) quite a bit. Not exactly healthy, but they eat right and they walk a lot. There you go, diet and exercise will allow you to smoke and drink your whole life! I'm kidding, but I think you get the point.

One of my favorite people to follow as far as anybody in the culinary industry is concerned is Lidia Bastianich. I follow her because she is a very likeable person to watch on television and she speaks to you and not at you or down to you. This makes following what she is doing, whether it be on TV or in print, a whole lot easier. A smart lady with a smart family, she has built up her brand very well.

There are a lot of people I follow to learn new ideas from: Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver, Chuck Hughes, Rob Feenie, David Rocco, Lidia, the list goes on and on. All of these people, to me, are easy to understand. They speak in layman's terms, meaning at a level to which we can all understand. Each one is different in their approach to getting their point across, but I find the result is still the same: I can understand where they are coming from. Lidia, I find, is one of the easier ones to follow.

All of the people I mentioned so far have cooked a seafood dish which I have tried to emulate at some point with reasonable success, but this calamari dish in one of the simplest dishes you'll find anywhere. But, you really have to pay attention to the clock on this one. Sometimes you say to yourself "Self, isn't it almost about thirty minutes from when I checked the Duck A la Banana in the oven?", when in fact it's been almost forty five minutes to an hour. It happens, we all do it from time to time. You can't do that with this dish. You will screw it up because calamari can't be overcooked. The good thing is, it doesn't take long to cook, so those of you (us) with ADHD don't have to worry. Just don't walk away from the stove and everything will be fine.

Manfredi's Steamed Calamari 

- 2 1/2 pounds medium-large calamari (uncleaned), or 2 pounds cleaned, uncut calamari. I usually use frozen as we can't always get fresh here, but the fresher, the better.
- 1 lemon
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste
- 5 tablespoons best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, or more if needed
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from lemon used above)
- 1/4 teaspoon peperoncino (chili) flakes, or to taste. You can use a chopped-up chili as well if you prefer
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Clean the calamari one at a time, if necessary, by bulling the tentacles slowly until all the innards come out of the body. Cut off the tentacles below the eyes, and discard the rest of the head and the innards; pop out and discard the small hard beak where the tentacles join. Cut off the pointy tip of each body, and peel off the skin; discard both. Rinse the trimmed tentacles and the body, holding it open under running water to flush the cavity. Slice the cleaned body crosswise, in rings 1/3 inch thick. Drain all the tentacles and rings in the steamer basket colander.
2. Shave off the lemon peel (zest layer only) with a vegetable peeler, in short strips. Squeeze the juice out of the lemon and reserve. Drop the zest into the water with the bay leaves, cover the pot, and simmer the water for about 1/2 an hour, to infuse it with the aromas of lemon and bay.
3. Keep the water simmering, and set the steamer basket with all the calamari in it inside the pot. Put on the cover, making sure it fits snugly inside, and steam the calamari gently. After 2 minutes, lift the cover, tumble the calamari over a couple of times in the colander, and sprinkle over it a couple of pinches of salt. Cover and steam another 2 minutes, tumble, and salt again. Repeat after 2 more minutes—you should have used 1/4 teaspoon salt in all. Steam for a total of 8 to 10 minutes.
4. When the calamari is tender but slightly resilient to the bite, remove the colander, season the pieces with another 1/4 teaspoon salt, mix well, then let them drain and cool for 5 minutes.
5. Turn the calamari into a bowl while still quite warm. Toss with the olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle over the remaining salt, the peperoncino, grated orange zest, and parsley, and toss well again. Taste, and adjust the seasonings.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature.


This is good as a main or a side. It's also a good thing to serve at a dinner party as no one is used to eating calamari this way. Everyone I've served this to has absolutely loved it. Squid is pretty versatile as well. You can use it in dishes such as a stir-fry too. Eat it more often than you do now, and try to get it grilled, braised in a sauce or steamed if you can.

The health benefits of squid are enormous. Almost everything from the sea is, but squid are the exception. Squid is full of vitamins and minerals you need (http://healthmad.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-squid/), so don't deny your body this chance to help make things right inside.

This is a brightly flavoured dish. Once you eat it, you may never go back to deep fried calamari, I didn't. But then again I never ate deep fried much before. Deep fried is alright, but it's still deep fried. The best I have ever eaten this way was at my health club, The Bow Valley Club (http://www.bowvalleyclub.com/) by Chef Kurt Warner. His was delicious, perfectly cooked. That was around a year ago, and it was quite a long time before that when it was the last time I ate it. Otherwise, it's steamed, grilled or in a sauce from now on. We had grilled calamari in PEI when we were there 2 years ago at a place called Sirenella (http://www.sirenella.ca/) in Charlottetown. Great dish and I have made it this way myself. The flavours in these three are well beyond what deep frying could ever hope to achieve and is far healthier.

Little O's Menu

Seeing as Christmas is just around the corner, Mandarin Oranges are now coming out in grocery stores. Last night we bought a box and broke them out immediately. While we were sitting on the couch watching TV with O sitting between us, Mrs. Urban Eater gave half a wedge to O, and she ate it. Then she wanted more! When she didn't want anymore, she had almost finished the whole thing by herself! Awesome! We figured the oranges would be too tart for her, but I guess we were wrong. I think most kids like oranges anyways, but we are excited to see she is taking to them at such an early age. I love the way they taste and they are loaded with vitamin C. The health benefits coming from the Mandarin are hard to ignore (http://www.liversupport.com/wordpress/2007/01/mandarin-oranges-to-prevent-liver-cancer/). Check them out and know that you are helping yourself out by eating a few over the holidays.

We also have her back on the whole grain sprouted bread with almond butter. She loves this and I think she gets more on her face than in her belly, but it's the thought that counts. Having fun with your food at that age is nice, but I think it's her aim that's to blame.

The adults in the house are taking another step towards a healthier diet as we are starting to make smoothies again. They are a good and healthy way to pound the nutrients into your body and fill you up first thing in the morning when you need it the most. I'll keep you posted about this.

Today's quote:

"The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry"
- George Miller

I have to have a squid quote, but they are extremely hard to find, so here you go:

"This is like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Except I'm married to the giant squid"
 - Al Bundy (Ed O'Neil) 1995, Married With Children


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark