Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fried Calamari, March Madness, and the First Day of Spring!

What a difference a week makes.  Spring arrived officially this afternoon, and as if to magnify its arrival, the weather here in the Saratoga Springs area is spectacular!  Last week it was all rain and mud and muck, and this week it is warm breezes, sunshine, and dry terrain!  I can't tell you how  happy this makes  me!  March Madness is here with enthusiasm as well.  My boyfriend Russ just watched his beloved Villanova lose to St. Mary's, and he's gone off to take a nap in defeat.  I, on the otherhand, watch basketball with no investment.  I just enjoy watching any underdog achieve something never thought possible.  I love all those come-from-behind scenarios.  The movie "Hoosiers" is one of my favorites.

March Madness has me thinking about food people eat while watching basketball.  I've been in pubs and bars watching basketball games during this annually frenetic time, and I think of "bar food" when I think of basketball -- wings, Irish nachos, pub fries, calamari.  The Stadium Cafe in Saratoga Springs has the best calamari I've ever had.  The rings are tender, sweet, and crunchy at the same time, served over a pool of a sweet yet tangy tomato marinara, with no tenticles in sight, yikes!).  I was not eager to try calamari the first time.  It took a little leap of faith but I gave it a shot and learned to appreciate it as a unique appetizer.  I don't have the Stadium's recipe, but I think you'll find Giada DeLaurentis's version more than acceptable!

There's still more than half a week-end left to enjoy this spring's arrival.  Katie and Bill just left to take Henry to the Saratoga Spa State Park.  I'm just loving the sun streaming in my kitchen windows.  I've shed the cold months of winter like an old, heavy coat! If I can just get the warmer months to take their time and linger, I'll appreciate every minute. 

Giada DeLaurentis's Fried Calamari


Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1 pound clean squid with tentacles, bodies cut into 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick rings
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dried parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, cut into wedges
1 cup simple tomato sauce, recipe follows or jarred marinara sauce, warmed


Pour enough oil into a heavy large saucepan to reach the depth of 3 inches. Heat over medium heat to 350 degrees F. Mix the flour, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Working in small batches, toss the squid into the flour mixture to coat. Carefully add the squid to the oil and fry until crisp and very pale golden, about 1 minute per batch. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the fried calamari to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.
Place the fried calamari and lemon wedges on a clean plate. Sprinkle with salt. Serve with the marinara sauce.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.
Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.
Yield: 6 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Recipe and Photo Credit:  Food  Network:

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