Finally cooking again: Sustainable calamari and warm pepper salad
This year has been a pretty tough one so far. I’ve had my first paper accepted (and endured the peer review process for the first time – more on that later) and written 4 of my 7 thesis chapters. I’ve also converted my satellite data processing code to run on a high performance computing system. This might not mean much to those of you not working in that kind of research…but imagine trying to translate an English A Level maths text book in to French when you don’t know French, and only knowing if you’ve done a good job when some French kids you’ve never met pass an A Level exam. That’s kinda how it feels.
It’s been a stressful few months, but I’m starting to have better days where I can see things coming together and get a few twinges of pride looking at my now quite substantial thesis document. And as of today 10 years of satellite data are being processed to provide entirely new data for marine scientists interested in the Benguela – I’m pretty stoked about that :)
So last night I managed to get back in the kitchen, inspired to respond to a call from one of my favourite organisations – WWF SASSI to share some favourite sustainable seafood recipes. We’ve been joined by a new Italian housemate this year; she’s cooked some amazing Italian recipes and bought me a beautiful book on Italian cuisine. Drawing on flavours from a few of my favourite Italian dishes – Panzanella, caponata, bruschetta and stuffed peppers, I created this little dish.
Polenta dusted calamari with a warm pepper salad
For 2 quite large portions…
For the calamari:
250g calamari (I used rings, but tubes and steaks will probably work fine too)
1/2 cup (125g) of flour
1/2 cup (125g) of polenta
Salt and lots of pepper (you can add a dash of cayenne if you like spice)
Frying oil of choice for shallow frying
For the warm salad:
8 tbsp of precooked rice (good for using up the leftovers)
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 bell peppers or 4-6 smaller peppers (we are getting beautiful little peppers at spar at the moment)
Half a lemon
A handful of basil
A handful of parsley
2 tbsp of capers (some green olives would be delicious too)
A little olive oil for cooking with (save the good stuff for dressing)
To serve: balsamic drizzle and some good extra virgin olive oil
First prepare your warm salad. Cut your peppers in half/in to pieces – it’s really just a matter of presentation. Arrange on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a hot oven (around 180 degrees celsius) for 20 mins or so until soft and slightly charred at the edges.
In a frying pan, soften the onions and garlic and add the rice. Add the tomatoes to soften slightly. Leave aside and move on to the calamari.
Make sure your calamari pieces are at room temperature, pat dry/drain to remove any excess liquid. Beat the egg and coat the calamari, making sure to drain any excess liquid again, else you will end up with clumps of coating. Mix the flour, polenta and seasoning in a bowl and toss the calamari in this mix to coat. Frying in hot oil for 4-5 mins until crispy. Drain to remove any excess oil.
Briefly reheat your frying pan with the rice mix and add the juice of half a lemon, capers/olives and chopped herbs (you want to keep these flavours fresh and not cook them too much). Arrange the roasted peppers and rice mix on a plate, top with the calamari rings. Finally, add a drizzle of balsamic and extra virgin olive oil to serve.
This would be great with a chenin blanc or lightly wooded chardonnay…though we had it with our favourite everyday craft beer – Bostons Whale Tale ale.