Calamari Salad with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes


Calamari are inexpensive and easy to prepare. Most restaurants serve them as an appetizer, breaded and deep fried, rendering them greasy and flavorless. A healthier alternative, cooking them quickly with just a little olive oil and sea salt, showcases their savory flavor and tender, chewy texture. But give them your full attention because if you overcook calamari, they can become tough and rubbery.

Because the calamari cooks so fast, this simple salad is a snap to prepare if you roast the tomatoes in advance. (Or, add them to the salad raw.) I used cilantro but parsley is a good substitute, or even fresh dill. I chose mixed pitted olives because I like a variety of flavors and textures, but you can use any olives you like.

This salad can be made an hour in advance and served at room temperature as an appetizer or main course, giving you time to prepare the rest of the meal.

1 pint grape tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
Sea salt
1 pound small calamari (squid), cleaned
1 medium organic lemon, zest plus juice
Ground peppercorn to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup pitted olives

Preheat the oven to 350F. Halve the tomatoes and add them to a baking dish. Toss with enough olive oil to coat, about a tablespoon, and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer the tomatoes to the hot oven and roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time. Turn the oven off and let the tomatoes continue to cook with residual heat as the oven cools.

If your fish monger hasn't cleaned the squid, hold the body and pull out the tentacles, allowing the head and innards to follow. Pull out the long cartilaginous quill from inside the body, along with any soft matter, and discard it. Chop off the tentacles and discard the head and innards. Feel the base of the tentacles to make sure it is soft. If you detect any hard parts, the beak is still inside, so trim it away and discard it. Reserve the tentacles and body tubes.

Rinse the cleaned tentacles and tubes (inside and out) and drain them well. Leave the tubes whole or separate the fins and chop the tubes into strips or rings. Transfer them to a bowl and toss with a pinch of sea salt and enough olive oil to coat all the pieces thoroughly.

Add the lemon zest and 3 tablespoons lemon juice to a large, clean bowl. Add an equal amount of olive oil, or more to taste, and the ground peppercorn. Whisk together. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside.

Preheat a grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the calamari, taking care to not crowd the pan. If necessary, cook the calamari in batches, turning as needed to cook all sides. Whole body tubes may take longer to cook than rings or tentacles, but everything should be done in just a few minutes. The calamari will be ready when they become firm and curl up. Do not overcook.

As the calamari finish cooking, add them to the lemon and olive oil mixture and toss to coat them well. Add the roasted tomatoes, olive and cilantro. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning again and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately while still warm or cool to room temperature and serve within an hour.