In Search of Harissa

I’m blaming this cooking adventure on Jamie Oliver and YouTube.

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Here’s the backstory. For some reason, I wanted fried calamari. It’s something I order in restaurants, but it didn’t seem like it would be too hard to do, even though I hadn’t deep fried anything for thirty years. Frying – yes. Deep frying in inches of oil – no!

I went online in search of recipes. The difference in most was the spices added to the flour in which you dredge the calamari. Anne Burrell’s recipe had 3 Tbsp of Cayenne. That was going to be way too hot for me. Giada De Laurentiis (my son calls this show “Cooking with Cleavage) added some dried parsley. Another recipe suggested some Old Bay. So my mixture was a compilation of Google suggestions and what I had on my spice shelf. I added some Cayenne, but I don’t like food that makes my sinuses run.

Then I went on YouTube because I wanted to see how you fried the calamari. Jamie Oliver’s video came up, and that’s where the problem started.

His calamari had way bigger tubes than the ones in my frozen package so I fast forwarded through that part until I came to the part where he’s making the dipping sauce.

He mashed a clove of garlic in a mortar. (I used to have one of those, but after not using it for a decade I sent it to the thrift shop. Should have kept it.) Note to self: stop throwing out cooking utensils just because you never use them.)

Then Jamie stirred several big spoonsful of mayo into the garlic and ladled it into a serving dish. Over the top he added a teaspoon of rosewater. Over that a spoonful of harissa. The red-tinted oil was gorgeous on the silky cream colored mayonnaise. Jamie took the tip of a knife and drew the oil out into the mayo. He must have done a turn as a barista at Starbucks. It was gorgeous. That’s what I wanted to serve with¬† my calamari.

My calamari was thawed, the flour was spiced but I had no harissa or rosewater. So I got in the car and drove fifteen minutes to Easton. I wasn’t thinking I’d find rosewater, but If anybody was going to have harissa it would be Harris Teeter. Four employees later we all gave up the chase. Apparently they used to carry harissa, but didn’t any longer. When they suggested I sort through four shelves of clearance items, I headed home.

I stopped at Graul’s in St. Michaels on the off chance they stocked it. Graul’s carries a lot of odd things, but they didn’t have harissa either.

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I made dipping sauce out of mayo and sweet hot chili sauce. It was good, but not as pretty as what I saw on Jamie Oliver’s YouTube video. I roasted green beans and got out the mandolin to make sweet potato slices which I threw in the hot oil. The calamari are fried just before serving as they take only a minute. They were tender and wonderful. I suppose we didn’t really miss the harissa, but I’ll keep looking. Or go on Amazon…

Has anyone else cooked with harissa?

I Cook Calamari

I occasionally try new recipes, but the old stand-bys that I have in my head are now pared down to feed 4-6 so that there are leftovers. (When I was cooking for four hungry teens, I made lasagna in restaurant sized pans.) And the tried and true recipes have been modified for food sensitivities we have. I have several friends whose husbands won’t eat leftovers. If my husband ever started down that road, he’d have to fix himself a bowl of gluten-free cereal for dinner.

My writing partner, Laura Ambler, is an inventive cook and recently told me that she frequently makes Calamari. I often order calamari in restaurants, but didn’t even know where to find it in my supermarket. But recently, on a foray to our local big box store, BJ’s, I found it next to the frozen salmon. Turns out calamari is a fairly inexpensive protein. Be adventuresome, I told myself as I bought a box.

calamari-pkgs

I went on line to see how to fix it and was glad I did. High heat and short cooking times keep calamari from overcooking which leads to a rubber tire result. This recipe, which  I found on Chowhound.com) made a quick and tasty dinner. Cooking the jasmine rice for 18 minutes took the longest. This recipe will go into my rotation. And since what I usually order in a restaurant is fried calamari, I need to try that, too.

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Calamari with garlic and parsley

  • 1 lb squid, cleaned (it came that way in the package but I rinsed it), cut into 3/4″ thick rings, tentacles left whole
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley (I still had some in the garden)
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Instructions:

  • pat squid dry with paper towel
  • heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat until smoking. Carefully add squid in a single layer, then add butter, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, tossing frequently, until squid is opaque and cooked through – about 1 to 2 minutes (do not overcook). Season with additional salt and pepper and serve over rice.
  • garnish with lemon wedges

Have you pursued any cooking adventures recently? Successes or epic fails?