Sautéed Calamari in Garlic & Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I love making delicious dishes that are very easy, yet flavorful and very little time consuming.  I know some of my recipes take a while, but this one takes very little time to make.  Make sure you get good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh garlic that is hard to the touch, sealed in its peel, and without any green sprouts.  Of course, it goes without saying that the squid or calamari should either be very fresh or frozen.  If they are frozen, make sure to thaw them correctly, in accordance with the instructions, which should be on the frozen package.

Sautéed Calamari in Garlic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb Squid or Calamari
1 small head fresh Garlic – minced (never from a jar)
Lemon Wedges
Flat Leaf Parsley – finely or roughly chopped
Kosher Salt or Fine Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Since hopefully your fishmonger has already cleaned the squid / calamari for you, begin by rinsing them in cold water and drying them thoroughly.  Cut them into 1 inch rings, and then dry them again.

Mince the garlic.  Chop the parsley.

In a large pan on medium high heat, add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, not smoking as extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoking point, add the calamari and minced garlic, and sauté them until the calamari are just firm.  This step does not take long at all.  Do not overcook them, as the garlic becomes bitter and the calamari becomes rubbery.

Remove the pan from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

When you serve them, add the chopped flat leaf parsley and lemon wedges on the side.

Enjoy with a crusty baguette or any type of grilled bread you like.


Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed mushrooms make a delicious appetizer for any occasion.  They can be stuffed with anything you like, seafood, charcuterie, all sorts of cheeses, all kinds of vegetables … the list goes on.  They can be a part of a delicious brunch, dinner, or can be served as tapas.  I made them recently for my daughter’s birthday party as part of her special birthday dinner.   They were a hit with everyone!

SPINACH AND CHEESE STUFFED MUSHROOMS IN TOMATO SAUCE
STUFFING

3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large Shallots – finely chopped
1.5 lbs Cremini or Button Mushrooms – stems removed and set aside
4 cups Baby Spinach – loosely packed
2 Lemons – zested
1 1/2  cups shredded aged white English Cheddar – Barber’s 1833
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

TOMATO SAUCE

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 large Garlic cloves
6 ripe Tomatoes – puréed
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Pinch Red Chili Flakes

Begin by cleaning the mushrooms with a damp paper towel or a wooden pastry brush, which is what I prefer to use.  Gently remove the stems from the caps, and place them in a separate bowl to the side.  With a small spoon, remove the gills from the mushroom caps, and discard them.  Finely chop the mushroom stems, and set aside.

In a sauté pan on medium high heat, sauté the shallots and mushroom stems in the olive oil, until they are soft and translucent.  Chop the spinach and add it to the sauté pan.  Cook the spinach and mushroom mixture, until the spinach is completely wilted.  Add the lemon zest and stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then turn the heat off.  Allow the spinach and mushroom mixture to cool down to room temperature.  Start making the tomato sauce in the meantime.  After the mixture has cooled, add the shredded cheese and stir to incorporate all the ingredients together.

Peel and smash the garlic with your knife.  In a braiser or sauce pan on medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil.  Make sure not to burn the garlic, as it tends to get very bitter.  Add a pinch of red chili flakes to the pan.  Quarter the tomatoes and purée them in a blender.  After the garlic has softened, add the tomato purée to the pan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stuff the mushroom caps with the spinach and mushroom stem mixture.  When the tomato sauce has reduced and thickened, ladle it into an oven proof casserole dish.  Place the stuffed mushroom caps over the sauce in the casserole dish, and bake them in the oven for 30 minutes.  When the mushroom caps have cooked through, and the cheese has melted (after 30 minutes in the oven), remove the casserole dish from the oven, and allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving.  Serve the stuffed mushrooms with the sauce and enjoy!