Wednesday, September 12, 2007

calamari chain restaraunt style

Last week I was out of town for work. We were in the Bloomington/Normal Illinois area, and based on nothing but a hotel magazine advertisement, we chose a place called Biaggi's for dinner. It's a small chain Italian place, but I had never heard of it, as there are none located anywhere near the STL. I was quite pleasantly surprised by how good the food was! For an appetizer we had the Calamari Alla Griglia, "Tender marinated calamari, lightly grilled and served over arugula with extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar" and it was probably the best calamari I've had anywhere. It was grilled, which was a first for me, and I loved the slight smokiness.

So I had a bag of frozen calamari waiting for me in the freezer, and decided to pull it out to try and replicate Biaggi's for a quick and easy Monday night meal. Well, it wasn't quite so easy because I was apparently being far from smart that night...I ended up ruining the seasoning on our cast iron skillet that Jack had worked for about a year to get to where it was. Yeah Balsamic vinegar AND frozen seafood liquid are big no-nos...I just wasn't thinking. Oh well, I salvaged the meal using another pan, and now I get to learn how to season cast iron!

The calamari was pretty good. I cooked some garlic in olive oil, then added balsamic vinegar, liquid smoke (to try and get that grilled flavor...our grill is out of gas) and salt and pepper and then the calamari. I cooked it probably about7 minutes? Somehow I managed to NOT overcook it. Yay! Then I served it over a bed of Arugula. I'm beginning to love arugula more and more. Its peppery bitterness compliments so many things. In this case the sweetness of the calamari and vinegar. It was good, although next time I'll thaw the calamari fully first, and rinse it and dry it. I had to pour a lot of liquid out during cooking, and there was absolutely no carmelization. Also, the calamari was a little fishy tasting...I think rinsing might have helped that...or marinating it for an hour or so...

My favorite part of the meal, and something I'll probably be making a lot, was the improvised side dish of cannellini beans and roasted red pepper. I sautéed some garlic in olive oil, added a can of the beans, salt and pepper and a roasted red pepper from a jar, which I chopped up. I'm always looking for new, easy side dishes.

The next day I had the leftovers for lunch...I added the beans to leftover calamari and arugula and ate it cold, like a salad. Like a really good salad.

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