Farmers Market Favorite | Mediterranean Lemony Calamari with Stewed Tomato

Seafood is such a cinch.

A few fresh ingredients, some seasoning, a little bit of heat, and a sharp knife-- that's really about all it takes to have an elegant tasty entree in scant minutes.

Squid are in season in the water, and the Texas Farmers' Markets are lucky to have a fresh-from-the-Gulf resource in K and S Seafood. They carry everything under the sun, or waves as the case may be, and also take pre-orders. Stop by the market soon and meet the fishmongers. And if you're not in the area, seek a local fishmonger of your own. These are the guys in the know, and they can be one of the most important people in your arsenal of food resources. They'll make you look good. Ask questions! Find out what the freshest catch is, the best of the season, how to clean and prepare, what a classic preparation of your particular choice might be. Forging these types of relationships are the best way I know how to become a seasoned cook.

And the thing about market-fresh ingredients? Well, heck, you just don't need much of them. They shine all on their own. When I get to the market for a chef demo, I come without a recipe. I simply choose the freshest and best of the day, and let it inspire my preparation. Here, early tomatoes are making appearances at the market, and these heirloom beauties from Bernardts Farm, along with that fresh squid, and the availability of fresh herbs suggested the Mediterranean to me, That's the direction I headed.

Does the addition of cinnamon surprise you? It would have surprised me too, before studying flavor principles of regional food. I began my education with one particular cookbook I can recommend, Ethnic Cuisines by Elisabeth Rozin. It's a good, basic, starting point--one in a trilogy I hope to eventually acquire-- sharing the most common flavor combinations in popular regional cuisines. In this case, the classic Mediterranean combination of tomato + cinnamon + lemon is featured, and rosemary and garlic are frequent additions. Southern (American) regional cooking borrows the tomato cinnamon profile traditionally in stewed okra and tomatoes, too. Learning tried and true flavor principles is another learned skill of accomplished cooks and will go a long way in helping you get quick, delicious meals on the table with minimal fuss or recipe hand-holding.

For 2 entrée servings, gather
  • 1 pint fresh squid, cleaned, tubes sliced in rings
  • 1T grapeseed oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only
  • 1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved and quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 whole lemon, sliced
  • 1t ground cinnamon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm grapeseed oil to shimmering, and add calamari rings, stirring frequently, until just opaque, about 1-2 minutes. 

Add cherry tomatoes, garlic, lemon slices and cinnamon. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes begin to break down and release their juices, about 5 minutes. 

Add the juice of half a lemon, return the heat to medium high, and allow to deglaze the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about one minute. Stir to incorporate.

Correct seasonings. Serve


No, really. That's it! See? A total cinch.

A few serving suggestions: You can certainly serve this as it is, as an entree, perhaps with a side of steamed green beans or broccoli raab and a nice, crusty piece of bread to soak up the lemony broth. Or you could serve it over orzo, a Mediterranean rice-like pasta, or you could nestle it in a bed of lightly-wilted fresh spinach, perhaps with a little garlic and lemon added to the saute' pan to intensify the depth of those flavors in the calamari. You could also toss it with a sturdy salad green like arugula, add a sprinkle of good feta cheese, and eat that main dish salad with a glass of crisp, dry white wine

Wait. Ditto that wine for the other suggestions, too. Learn more about pairing wines with Mediterranean food here.

This dish was prepared for the Texas Farmers' Markets Lakeline. If you're in the area on Saturday mornings, you might just find me there. See you at the markets!

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