Maybe it’s the abnormally hot weather in SF, but I’m craving food that is: tangy, spicy, salty, juicy and fresh– nothing manicured, or tweezed to perfection, or ridiculously complex with subtle layered flavors. Give me big bright satisfying Mediterranean ingredients like: tomatoes, capers, olives, lemon, fresh whole fish, creamy white beans, spicy sausages, wood-fire slow roasted meats, and lots of fresh zesty herbs like oregano and flat leaf parsley.
Or just give me a table somewhere in the Mediterranean on the beach with a bottle of rosé and let me pick through the seasonal menu at my leisure while basking in the sun and salty sea air… that could work too…
A few tricks of the trade when it comes to calamari: if buying frozen tubes (which is fine, I’m not judging, they’re cheap!) make sure to thaw carefully in the refrigerator or under running cold water. Tubes pulled apart while frozen will rip and be unstuffable. If they do break just grill them anyway and slice into rings – they make a great addition to the marinated bean salad.
If buying fresh calamari that are not cleaned either keep the purple outer coat on with the floppy side rudders or peel it all off. I prefer to peel it off. I think they grill and sear better without that flimsy purple coat. However, I sometimes leave it on for braised calamari.
Make sure to finger inspect the inside of each tube, that goes for the frozen ones too, and pull out the inner clear plastic-looking cartilage. This innertube cartilage is inedible and it’s easy to choke on because it’s practically invisible. Always check for freshness and keep refrigerated until ready to cook. They go bad quickly. If they smell ammoniated throw them out.
When it comes to stuffing calamari be creative! Sometimes I use ricotta & herbs, or mushrooms & crab, or sausage & tomato, or feta & sausage. Just keep in mind that the stuffing can’t be too wet. That doesn’t mean breadcrumbs are necessary (I rarely use them), but the stuffing will ooze out during the cooking process if it’s too juicy and this will cause flare-ups on your grill or it will give you a messy pan sear.
Do NOT overstuff the calamari tubes. They will either break while filling or burst while cooking. Once the calamari hits the frying pan or the grill, it puffs up and changes from a slippery floppy plastic-y thing into a taught turbo tube. Only fill to 1/2-inch of the mouth of the tube and secure it with a toothpick. (pictured above – see how they are just gently filled and they don’t look they are going to pop?)
I prefer to use a pastry bag to fill or just a regular ziploc with the corner cut off – this makes the process much easier. I lie both the stuffing bag and the tube flat and squeeze instead of holding them in my hand. If you’re doing 100 of these little guys, I guarantee my method will make it go faster.
And one last tip: LUBE your TUBE before grilling or pan searing with cooking oil! This will help to minimize breakage.
Sear stuffed calamari on a hot grill (or hot pan) and remove to a less hot spot to cook through. They only take a few minutes to cook , overcooked they’re tough and rubbery. The calamari will be opaque white when done. If there’s concern about the stuffing temperature, then by all means stick your finger in there and see if it’s hot! Or insert a testing rod and check it against your bottom lip.
This chorizo and feta stuffing is salty (in a good way) but needs the vinaigrette of the Tuscan salad to cut through it so liberally serve up the tomatoes and beans. Hope this hits the spot!
- STUFFED CALAMARI:
- 12 medium size calamari tubes, cleaned (about 2 pounds)
- 2 chorizo sausages, cooked out of casing and crumbled
- 1 cut feta, crumbled
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
- olive oil for cooking
- MARINATED TOMATO & BEAN SALAD
- 12 ounces white beans (gigante or white kidney) cooked gently until tender
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 clove garlic, thinly shaved
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 small Meyer Lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup salted capers (do not rinse)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 pinches red chili flakes
- Salt & white pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley and oregano leaves
Please read the above mentioned tips and tricks of the trade for cleaning, stuffing, and cooking calamari!
In a small mixing bowl mix together all of the ingredients for the marinated tomato and bean salad. Taste and adjust seasoning. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or up to a day. Gently toss the salad every now then while it's marinating. If you are using salted capers, then use the salt to from the jar to adjust the seasoning.
In another small mixing bowl mix together cooked and crumbled chorizo (you can use any sausage), feta, and chopped mint. It will be dry and that's okay but it should be well mixed. Fill a pastry bag (or ziploc) with stuffing and cut a small opening at the tip wide enough for the filling to come out.
Fill tubes gently with chorizo feta stuffing up to 1/2-inch of the mouth of the tube. Secure the top with a toothpick. Refrigerate until ready to cook. Lube the tubes before cooking with olive oil.
On a hot well oiled grill or cast iron pan sear calamari on both sides until browned or grill marked, about 1 minute each side. Then remove to a less hot place (or turn down the heat) and cook through on each side for another few minutes. Calamari cooks fast. When the tubes are white and the stuffing is hot, they are done.
Take out the toothpicks in the tubes and serve over tomato and white bean marinated salad. Spoon the vinaigrette over all and enjoy!