In a weird and random burst of spontaneity at the supermarket a couple of weeks ago, I purchased several small, cleaned calamari, thinking that it would be great charred over the grill or in a spicy pasta sauce. To my dismay, the calamari stayed in the freezer, untouched, until one day when I Youtube-surfed my way to this video of Mario Batali cooking this delicious sounding Sicilian Lifeguard Calamari. It was fate. It had to be done.
Traditional, authentic Italian dishes don't mix the pasta course with a chunk of protein (think chicken in pesto and pasta sauce). They are very much separate. So in a way I am embarrassed that I topped this with salmon, but what's done is done and it was delicious anyways. This risotto is great because it's incredibly light and contains no cheese. Spicy and slightly acidic from the tomatoes, the risotto is hearty and incredibly filling. I'm particularly looking forward to trying it again with some clams and mussels thrown into it next time.
Sicilian Lifeguard Style Risotto (Adapted from Mario Batali's Sicilian Lifeguard Calamari):
- 1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for serving
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
- 1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons capers or caper berries
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 cup basic tomato sauce or your favorite chunky tomato sauce
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1/2 pound cleaned calamari*, sliced into 1/3 inch tube, tentacles halved
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley (but I would have used scallions if I had them)
*You could very much increase the amount of calamari in the risotto and serve it on its own without the salmon.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Set up an ice bath nearby. "Blanch" the couscous in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and immediately plunge it into the ice bath. Once cooled, remove and set aside to drain.
Ina 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat the oil until just smoking. Add the pine nuts, garlic, caperberries and red pepper flakes, and saute until the pine nuts are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the couscous and bring to a boil. Add the calamari, stir to mix, and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the calamari is just cooked and completely opaque. Toss in the parsley, or scallions if you're using those. Season with salt and pepper, pour into a large warm bowl, sprinkle with the reserved parsley/scallions, drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.
Perfect Pan-seared salmon:
- 2 5-oz. fillets, the thickest ones you can find.
- kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
Pat the salmon dry with paper towels on both sides. Season both slides well with kosher salt. In a non-stick pan, pour in the oil and heat to high heat until the oil is shimmering. Carefully slide the salmon fillets into the pan, skin side down. Let it cook, untouched, for 4 minutes. Flip onto the other side for another 2 minutes (if your fillets are on the thinner side, adjust the cooking times down). Then, turn the heat down and remove the fish from the pan, placing it onto a cooling rack to maintain the crispiness of the skin.
Enjoy the weekend!