I am very glad the weather is still decent and we are going to have a very nice weekend, because I’m not ready to let go of summer. I’m harvesting the very last of my vegetables, and dreaming of all the fish and seafood I ate while in Spain and Portugal this summer. So before I start thinking and cooking fall recipes, allow me one last one, which transitions very well from summer to fall, and where I can enjoy the last of my homegrown vegetables: calamari and bean salad.
I’m starting to see calamari more often at the supermarkets here in Fort Wayne, and I’m taking advantage of it. You’ve seen me put calamari in paella, in fideuá, and in soups, and a very common way to eat them, both in Spain and here at restaurants in North America, is battered, tempura style. In the salad I’m sharing today, calamari are fast boiled and immediately placed in an ice bath. It might be surprising to many, but they marry perfectly well with the vegetables, beans and dressing in the salad.
On the coast of Spain, in restaurants and tapas bars everywhere, calamari, or squid, come in all shapes and sizes, and every imaginable way of cooking them. We call them chipirones when they are small, thumb size; puntillas when they’re tiny, half an inch in size; calamares when they are thicker, and my personal favorite, sepia, cuttlefish, lovely when it’s grilled and dressed in a citrusy majado. We cook their flesh and we use their ink, which is used to make black noodles, or a favorite rice dish, arroz negro, black rice, usually accompanied by garlic aioli (click here for the recipe).
Every summer, we spend a week in the coastal town of Alcocebre, where literally every day we eat some kind of seafood, always including any or a few of the different varieties of calamari, at some of the wonderful restaurants or tapas bars spread throughout the town and the seawalk. The mornings are spent at one of the many beautiful beaches, where you can choose between fine white sand beaches, or small coves with rocky caves where we look for crabs and other mollusks, or rounded pebble beaches that are secluded and very private. Some mornings we feel more lazy and have a very leisurely breakfast before heading to the beach. But more often than not, we go on morning walks or runs along the sea boardwalk, or hike up the mountain to the chapel of Santa Lucía, or along the shore through the Sierra de Irta National Park. This summer we did such a walk, and I thought I would share some of the photos with you.
Walking along the coast with the natural park on one side and the Mediterranean sea on the other, is certainly peaceful and priceless. The smells of the sea and the pine trees and all other indigenous plants that grow in the park make it a wonderful experience. It’s family time, too, and we treasure these times now more than ever, with our oldest, Matthew, away at University, and our middle one, Ethan, months away from it. We joked and laughed and teased and chatted. And on the spur of the moment, paused and took a dip in the clear, warm waters. Refreshed and replenished, we headed back for our gastronomic feast.
CALAMARI AND BEAN SALAD
Ensalada de calamares y alubias blancas
1 1/2 cups dry white beans (I used black-eyed peas)
2 lbs calamari, washed and sliced into 1/2 inch rings
1 medium green pepper
1 large tomato
For the dressing:
1 large or 2 medium shallots
1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
2 Tbs fresh chopped oregano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
Place the peas in a strainer and rinse, checking for any stones. Transfer the peas to a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and check for tenderness. Season with salt and continue to cook 10 more minutes, or longer if needed for tenderness (alternatively, after 30 minutes of simmering, remove from the heat source and let the peas sit in the hot water for 2 hours, or as needed for tenderness). Drain the peas and let cool. (Note: I like to do this step the day before, so the peas are cold enough when it is time to assemble the ingredients).
Prepare the calamari:
If the calamari came whole, remove the tentacles and reserve, and cut the body into 1/2-inch rings.
Place a saucepan filled with water over the heat source and bring to a boil. Add 2 Tbs salt and dissolve. Prepare a bowl with ice water. Add the calamari to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, no longer. Drain the calamari and transfer to the bowl of ice water to cool down. Drain again and dry well in a kitchen towel.
Dice the green pepper and the tomato into small cubes. Place in a large salad bowl and add in the calamari and the black-eyed peas.
Prepare the dressing:
Mince the shallots finely. Place in a small bowl with the parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and sherry vinegar. Add in the olive oil in a stream while stirring to mix the ingredients. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to mix.
The salad can be served immediately, or it can be covered and refrigerated overnight. The next day, toss again and drizzle one or two tablespoons of olive oil to refresh it.