Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Summer BBQ. And what I'm planning......

Welcome to the very first Gourmet Goddess recipe of 2011. It was a rather steamy summer Saturday in Sydney yesterday, so I decided that a BBQ dinner was absolutely mandatory. I also wanted something quite light, as well as something a bit different. Summer says seafood for me , so I headed to the fishmonger to check out what looked good. I couldn't go past the baby calamari that he had on display, so that was the inspiration for today's dish. I love the versatility of calamari - and also the fact that it is very inexpensive at this time of the year - so it is good for your health,your tastebuds and your wallet! I decided to go with a slightly Italian vibe with this recipe, serving the calamari with a zingy Summer stuffing flavoured with garlic, lemon, parmesan, capers and plenty of fresh herbs from the garden - mint, basil and continental parsley.

If you are really squeamish about cleaning the calamari, then get the fishmonger to do it for you. But please, please don't be tempted to buy those big pre-cleaned (inevitably frozen) squid tubes from the supermarket. They taste like rubber and are truly awful. Wait until you can get your hand on the real McCoy - tentacles and all!

I served the calamari with a salad of baby spinach, spanish onion, black olives, cucumber and fennel, which I grilled first on the BBQ. I have never done fennel that way, but it was fantastic. Just cut the bulb into slices, brush them with some olive oil, season well and cook for a few minutes each side. Really delicious. For the salad dressing I just added a drizzle of good olive oil and a few drops of pomegranate balsamic.

This week I will be in preparation for a paid catering gig on Saturday - a private 6 course degustation dinner for a 70th birthday. I do the odd paid job from time to time - I really enjoy it and it keeps both my cooking and organisational skills well and truly honed.The menu has been locked in and I'm in the process of putting down my working plan. This is basically a timetable of when everything needs to be done -  from the cooking to the final serving and an inventory of what you will need to do it. When you are juggling multiple tasks, it is an absolute must to have a clear plan, or it can go pear shaped pretty quickly! Even a simple written list can mean the difference between getting all the food on the table at it's best and in the right order - or kitchen chaos.

I find it is always a challenge cooking in someone else's kitchen. Happily the dinner is being held just down the street from me, so quite a bit of the preparation can be done in my own kitchen. This makes things so much easier. I am really looking forward to creating this degustation menu. One of the items is a fruit tart that I haven't made since Paris, and I have been meaning to do it since May last year! A good chance to revisit what I learned at cooking school. I will of course be putting up photos and a full account of the dinner next weekend.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this lovely summery calamari dish from the Gourmet Goddess kitchen....

Char-grilled Baby Calamari
with lemon, caper and green herb stuffing

You will need:
For the calamari: 6-8 smallish/medium sized calamari, a splash of olive oil, toothpicks (for securing the ends of the calamari), lemon wedges to serve.
For the suffing: 4 cups fresh breadcrumbs, 1 large finely chopped onion, splash of olive oil, 3 cloves very finely chopped garlic, finely grated rind of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon baby capers, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped continental parsley, 1/2 tablespoon chopped basil leaves, 1/2 tablespoon chopped mint leaves, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 egg, salt and pepper(to taste).

Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan and cook the onion and the garlic on a medium heat until it softens and starts to look transparent. Set aside.

Combine all of the remaining stuffing ingredients in a bowl. Add the onion and mix well. Your hands are best for this, to ensure that all of the ingredients are well combined. Season generously and set the stuffing aside.

Clean the calamari - you will need to remove the head, outer skin, "wings" and tentacles and ensure that the remaining calamari tubes are super clean and clear of any ink etc.

Cut off the tips if the calamari tubes (about 1/2 cm). This will prevent the calamari from swelling too much during cooking and popping open. It basically gives them an inbuilt air vent!

Using your fingers, stuff the calamari with the filling, pushing it right to the ends. Secure with a toothpick. Wipe the calamari with a damp paper towel to remove any stray stuffing from the outside.

Heat your BBQ/Grill. Brush the calamari with a little olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes each side. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the calamari. If you happen to have a BBQ with a hood/lid, pop the lid on for the last few minutes of the cooking process.

Let the calamari rest for 5 minutes after cooking.
Slice and serve with salad, crusty bread and an extra squeeze of lemon.


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