This dish has a long history and is an important part of my life :) As a young girl back in '90s (now I sound like I am too old, which clearly I am not :) my husband (back then a boyfriend) and me would eat those (occasionally when our students budgets would allow)at nice restaurants( called "splav") situated above Danube and Sava rivers in Belgrade,Serbia. They were also a delicacy I enjoyed at the coast anywhere around Mediterranean sea.They are tiny in size, very delicate texture and could be stuffed,sauteed or grilled(my favorite way).
Then later I moved to USA and the story of calamari changed a little bit :) They were so hard to find (the way I described them above). Squid was easy to find but that is a different beast. And if you were lucky to find them they would usually be prepared as fried. Not my favorite.Seeing a lot deep fried calamari and not grilled on some of the nice restaurants' menus here in Bay Area,California was just one of the cultural shocks I went thru :)
Many years have passed since then and lot of things have changed. For better. First you can find much better fresh seafood at markets and second I started to rely much less on restaurants when it comes to the food I enjoy eating and more on me making it.
So now days you can purchase (previously frozen and thawed for you) calamari at your local Whole Foods market on a regular basis.
I like to serve calamari with potato chard salad (recipe follows).
Ingredients:(for 4 hungry people like us)
2 pounds fresh or previously frozen and thawed calamari (with tentacles,those are delicious)
6 garlic gloves,minced
juice of one large juicy lemon(more for serving)
two tablespoons of coarsely chopped Italian parsley
4 tablespoons olive oil
Preparation: I like to use large cast iron skillet or wok for this but any large enough pan (you do not want calamari to be too crowded in the pan you use) would work. The goal is to get nice crust on the calamari as they cook.
Prepare calamari: Wash them well in a cold water. If using frozen thaw them overnight in a refrigerator. Pat dry very well with paper towel and if you have time let them air dry for 10-15 minutes.
Heat the skillet over high heat and add olive oil. Add garlic and calamari along with tentacles, stir once and leave it for couple of minutes without stirring further. Flip them over and cook for another couple of minutes. Do not overcook calamari :)
Turn off the heat and add sea salt, juice of a lemon and parsley. Serve right away with lemon wedges and potato chard salad.
Potato Chard Salad (Serbian: Varivo)
1 1/2 pounds all-purpose potatoes (Yukon gold)
1 bunch chard
2 garlic cloves minced
juice of 1 large lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Peel and cut potatoes into large cubes. Boil and cool to a room temperature.
Blanch chard in a large pot of boiling water. Cool in ice water to preserve green color.
Place potatoes and chard in a large bowl.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add garlic, sautee for a minute. Let it cool and pour over potatoes and chard. Squeeze lemon juice over it and season with salt. Give it a gentle toss.
While this salad can be made few hour ahead, I like it the best when served right after it cools to a room temperature.
Note: Do not discard the stems from chard, they are edible and crunchy and so tasty :)