Inspired

Dinner:  December 8, 2009

One of the most fun things about this past year has been my involvement with food52. The weekly challenges have made me look at cooking in new ways, and there’s a real sense of camaraderie there that isn’t present in a lot of other online forums. I have met, virtually and in person, so many great people, have become aware of a ton of new-to-me food blogs, and have been hugely inspired by the great dishes being put forth every week by the food52 community.

This dish is one that caught my eye a while back, and with cold, stormy weather headed our way, I knew it would be perfect for last night’s dinner. It comes from Brooke of not lazy. rustic., and it was just as delicious as I thought it would be. The Point Judith squid, inexpensive and sustainable, came from Mercato del Mare, and it became incredibly tender as it simmered in a bath of red wine, stock*, tomatoes, and aromatics. The olives really made the dish, mellowing as they cooked ever-so-briefly in the stew and leached a bit of their briny flavor into the rich broth. If you’re looking for a new take on seafood stew, give this one a try.

Recipe: Squid, Potato & Olive Stew on food52

*Brooke’s recipe calls for clam juice, which we didn’t have, so I substituted an equivalent amount of Maine shrimp stock that I had in the freezer.

Sea-food Diet

Dinner:  September 11, 2009

Commuting to Boston can be rough, and it makes for some very long days (12 hours from the time I leave in the morning to the time I walk through the door in the evening, assuming I don’t work late or have train delays), but it’s worth it for many reasons. Like Providence, Boston is a great food town, and it’s a treat to venture out on my lunch break to source out items for dinner.

One of my favorite discoveries since moving back to this part of the country is Mercato del Mare (a/k/a “the cutest fish market ever“), a jewel box of a store located in the North End. Since Friday was grey and gloomy, I decided to head to the store to pick up ingredients for a light but warming seafood stew.

In a riff on my standard preparation, I decided to toss some Point Judith calamari into the mix. I generally grill or fry calamari, but since tasting a red wine-braised version at Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Local Food Fest over the summer, I have been eager to try a long-cooked preparation, and the calamari turned out as meltingly tender as I had hoped it would be.

saffron

Seafood Stew with Saffron, Tomatoes and Fennel

½ lb. calamari, cleaned (bodies, tentacles or a mix of both)
½ lb. skinless, firm-fleshed white fish (I used cod), cut into 1 inch chunks
½ lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ lb. cockles or other small clams, scrubbed
2 T extra virgin olive oil
kosher or sea salt
1 cup diced shallot, red onion, or leek
a big pinch of saffron
¼ cup dry white vermouth
1 28 oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes with their juices (I prefer San Marzano), lightly crushed
1 cup peeled and cubed russet potato
½ cup chopped fennel bulb
1 cup water

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the shallot, onion or leek and a big pinch of salt, stir to coat with oil, and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften. Slice the calamari bodies into rings. Add the calamari rings (and tentacles, if using) and another pinch of salt, and stir to coat with the oil. Clear a spot in the center of the pan and crumble in the saffron, letting it toast briefly before stirring through. Add the vermouth and the tomatoes with their juices. Stir and let cook over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Let cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, and partially uncovering if the heat is too high. Add the potato, fennel and remaining onion, plus up to a cup of water and a pinch more salt, stir and let cook until the potatoes are just tender. Add the chunks of fish, the shrimp, and the cockles at the end, letting them simmer in the hot broth until they are just cooked through – about 5 minutes should do. Remove from heat and ladle the stew into wide, shallow bowls. Serve with plenty of toasted garlic-rubbed bread on the side.

(Weekend Eats (and Drinks) will return next week.)

Salad Days II

Dinner:  July 29, 2008

I think I’ve spoken before of my fondness for Rhode Island-style calamari, but did you know that most of the squid served in restaurants in this country is actually from the waters off little Rhody? I didn’t until I read an article about it in the Spring 2008 issue of Edible Rhody magazine, and since then I’ve happily indulged in this local treat whenever possible.

I’ve lamented the fact that, to my surprise, fresh local seafood can be difficult to find in stores around here, but our nearby Whole Foods often has plenty of Point Judith squid available. It’s inexpensive and plentiful, and I picked up a pound of it recently hoping to make it the focus of a meal.

I had originally planned to go in a slightly different direction here, but I settled on a salad infused with Spanish flavors, mixing up a smoked Spanish paprika and sherry vinaigrette to dress the smoky grilled squid and warm potatoes. Chopped shallot and celery added some crunch, and plenty of fresh celery leaves and parsley provided an herbal bite. The finishing touch was a few slivers of fresh red chile pepper, which imparted a gentle heat and pop of color.