‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Calamari Pomodoro
In many Italian homes Christmas Eve celebrates the Feast of Seven Fishes. I say many homes, but not all Italian homes, as my family did not follow this tradition. Christmas Eve was more about the children, getting together with my cousins, playing games and keeping ourselves busy until we were finally allowed to open our presents, pretty close to the midnight hour. Among all the food served that night, it was the homemade Sicilian pizza that I reached for every time!
In later years as I learned of this southern Italian tradition, I began incorporating the Seven Fishes into our Christmas Eve. I love following traditions along with the anticipation of the special time together with family and enjoying these once a year celebrations. Last year my children and I shared our Christmas Eve with some very dear friends and my menu was as follows:
Spinach and Crab Dip
Smoked Fish Dip
Bay Scallops Augratin
Caprese Salad with Smoked Salmon
Caesar Salad (with anchovies!)
This year I will change my menu slightly serving the calamari in a gentle spicy sauce. Fried Calamari is always my favorite appetizer when eating out. I’ll test out every restaurant’s version, taking note on my favorites. Mostly offered with a marinara but some of my favorites, especially at a local sushi restaurant, top the fried calamari with chopped peanuts and a sweet sauce. Sharing with someone who likes to eat the tentacles is a plus for me!!
I’ve never been fond of deep frying so making fried calamari at home is something I’ve not done. (If you’re looking for a great fried calamari recipe though, check out ChgoJohn’s!)
My at home Calamari dish is quick to make; which by the way is exactly how Calamari needs to be cooked; quickly as it will become rubbery if overcooked. It’s best to serve immediately so this will be one of my first course offerings and I will round out my menu with other dishes that can either bake slowly or served at room temperature. A few suggestions I have will include; Linguini and Clam Sauce, Grilled Tuna Salad, Shrimp Scampi Salad, Fresh Herb Roasted Salmon.
adapted from North End Italian Cookbook
1 ½ pounds cleaned calamari rings (I purchase cleaned, calamar rings frozen)
¼ c. olive oil
1/ bunch scallions, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
28 oz can San Marino whole tomatoes, crushed
Fresh basil, tarragon, mint and oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Lemon wedges for garnish
Rinse and dry calamari rings, set aside.
In a large skillet on low heat, heat olive oil and sauté shallots, scallions, garlic, crushed red pepper for approximately 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium high and add in calamari. Toss lightly and quickly, adding in few dashes of Srirachi sauce. Saute for 2 minutes, remove calamari with a slotted spoon and set aside.
If necessary, add a few more drops of olive oil and add the tomatoes, crushing with a wooden spoon. Gently simmer the sauce adding in the mix of fresh basil, tarragon, mint and oregano. Add in additional crushed red pepper and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes.
Return calamari to the skillet with the chopped fresh parsley. Simmer to heat through about 3-5 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes to marry the flavors. Serve at once with some crusty ciabatta bread.