Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sauteed Calamari with Jalapeno, Cilantro, and Lime

When people hear "calamari", they think battered and fried diet saboteurs.  But it has a bad rep!  Calamari can be delicious AND super healthy when grilled or sauteed with minimal added oil.

And, don't get me wrong- I LOVE some me deep-fried calamari, especially if it's done properly.  And I've even made it myself (done properly, of course ;-)).  But for a weeknight, it doesn't make the cut in the health department.

This time around I sauteed a bag of pre-cut rings.  You can also buy the bag with mixed rings and tentacles, or the whole pieces and cut them yourself.  Make sure to clean and remove any hard pieces of cartilage or whatever it is that is sometimes still in the whole pieces.

I had a cast-iron skillet to use this time, and it really did make a difference for the better.  Can't wait until we're not moving all over the place so that my kitchen can be fully stocked with all of the goodies I want.  You can use a different kind of skillet still- it'll just be very difficult to get the nice crisp browning without overcooking.  But they don't need to be brown.

You can also grill these.  I've done them in a grill basket before with great results.  In that case, add the lime juice and cilantro after you've put the grilled calamari into a non-holey dish. ;-)

What you need:

2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 pound calamari, cut into rings
1 jalapeno, sliced and seeds removed unless you like it hot
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste

Start by squeezing the excess moisture out of your calamari.  Literally squeezing with (multiple) paper towel.  This is very important!  Too much liquid will make it hard to get a sear on them.

Next, heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat.  Add the coconut oil.  Once the oil is hot, add the calamari rings.  Saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the jalapeno.  Continue to saute for another 1-2 minutes, or until complelely opaque.  You may not get any color on your rings depending on how hot your stove gets and what kind of pan you use.  Do not overcook.  Remove from heat and add cilantro and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired- I added salt to mine once it was on my plate, husband waved it away.

I served mine over a bed of greens and chopped tomato with a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce on the side (see below for that recipe).

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

1 roasted red pepper, seeds and stem removed (I left the skin on)
1 cup Greek yogurt
juice of 1/2 lime
4-5 cloves roasted garlic
pinch of salt

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  That's it!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Summer Squash with Onions, Garlic, Jalapeno, and Bacon

My first experience cooking summer squash was when I was 14 years old and obsessed with calories.  My mom told me how my grandmother used to make it-cooked way down with onions and a lot of butter- and that it was one of the simplest yet most delicious vegetable dishes.  I wasn't a fan of using butter, but used a little cooking spray and topped it afterwards with "buttery spray", which is as artificial as it sounds.  Delicious as promised, even made my low-cal way.

Fast forward 10+ years, and a variation on this is still my favorite way to cook summer squash.  I still want to keep it on the light side, but now know that leaving a tad bit of bacon grease in my pan will add a ton of flavor without compromising the healthiness of my dish (and no more buttery spray involved!).  And you can definitely skip the bacon and use a little bit of some other fat (olive oil, butter, or coconut oil).  Sometimes I add a tiny drizzle of truffle oil at the end.

The key to this dish is letting it cook for a bit.  The method is sort of a combination of sauteing and stewing.  There is plenty of moisture as the squash breaks down, but the heat is higher than a traditional stewing process and there is more browning.  The heat is low enough, though, that some moisture does build up and you don't have to stir as often as during traditional sautes.

The end result should have some nice golden color and also reduce down to almost create a mush (I was actually a little impatient this time around... my squash wasn't quite mush enough! :-/). This is what really lets the natural sweetness shine and eliminates the need for additional seasoning.  The bacon adds a little salt, so you won't need to add extra unless you don't use bacon.

4-5 strips bacon
1 medium onion (I used a sweet onion), sliced or diced
3 small summer squash, sliced thinly
1 head garlic, peeled and cloves cut into slices
1 jalapeno
4 green onions

Start by frying the bacon in a large frying pan over medium/medium-high heat.  Once the bacon is fully cooked (the crispier you make it, the more you render the fat out), remove the strips from the pan and drain over paper towel.  Discard all but 1-2 teaspoons of the bacon grease.  There should be a very thin coating on the bottom of the pan.

Add the onion, squash, garlic, and jalapeno to the pan.  Saute/stew, stirring only every couple minutes, until the squash breaks down and all vegetables have a lovely golden color.  If things are sticking too much, reduce heat a little.  This should take at least 20-25 minutes and you can keep cooking it beyond that to deepen the flavor.  You can baby it if you want and stir more often, but I find that stirring less often works perfectly well and that way you can wash some dishes or prep other parts of dinner at the same time.  Once you've achieved a suitably mushy state, add the green onions and crumble in the reserved bacon strips.

And enjoy!  This would be a perfect accompaniment to some salmon or barbecued chicken.