California Central Coast Recipes
Calamari with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Eggplant
Calamari with Fresh Tomatoes and Eggplant is a very light seafood dish --but don't let that lightness fool you! It has amazingly complex aromas and textures. Made with layers of calamari, eggplant and fresh tomato sauce with oregano, the aromas are intoxicating. There is no cheese in this recipe so it is not like a lasagna in taste. The white wine, olives and capers give it a bit of a Caponata
flair. And like a caponata, it can be served at room temperature as a cold buffet dish.
The secret to this recipe is to gently oven cook the layered calamari with white wine --a process somewhere in between poaching and a full braise. The sauce should come out rather light, not thick like a spaghetti sauce.
This is not one of our "quick recipes" but if you really want a fantastic result, the time IS worth it! Ideally you will have time to make a fresh light tomato sauce, but you could shorten the prep time by using a pre-made chunky tomato sauce but you would have to be careful about competing flavors. So be advised.
Preparation time: 1 hour Cooking time: 40 minutes
The Tomato Sauce
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 cloves Garlic , minced
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoons Hot Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 cup Dry White Wine
7 cups Tomatoes , coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoons Capers , rinsed
1/3 cup-lightly-packed, Fresh Oregano , chopped
Salt to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 pound Calamari steaks
2 medium Eggplants , sliced 1/4inch thick
1/2 cup Dry White Wine
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cups Fresh Bread crumbs
1 In a large stockpot, heat four tablespoons of of extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat. When the olive oil is hot, add the garlic and the red pepper flakes. Saute until the garlic is fragrant and lightly golden. Be careful not to burn!
2 Add in the wine and deglaze. Reduce the wine by two thirds to three-fourths.
3 Add in the chopped tomatoes, stir well and simmer and reduce the tomato liquid down by one third to one half. This may take fifteen - twenty-five minutes or so.
4 While it's simmering, add in the oregano and stir well.
5 Add in the olives and the capers. Stir well and let cook some more.
6 Add in the salt and black pepper to taste and let simmer a few more minutes.
7 When the sauce is cooked down to a nice chunky sauce and the flavors have meld, you can remove from heat and set aside until later.
The Calamari and Eggplant
8 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
9 While the sauce is cooking, with a mandoline or vegetable slicer, slice the eggplant length wise into 1/4 inch thick slices. VERY lightly brush each slice with olive oil (you do not want the slices to become soggy!) and place in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
10 Shake a little salt and pepper on top, and place the slices into the hot oven for 10 minutes to bake. When done, the eggplant should be limp, but not browned.
11 (Hint: To speed the process up it helps to have a couple of baking sheets, working with one sheet at a time. Start baking the first sheet when assembled, and continue with the next sheet as the first bakes.)
12 Place the calamari steaks between two piece of plastic wrap --or in a large plastic bag and pound the calamari steaks until they are about 1/4 inch thick. It's OK if they tear a bit no one will see them!
13 Lightly brush the inside of a heavy baking pan or dish large enough to hold all the eggplant (a 9x13x1.5 for two eggplants) with the remaining Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Lightly spread several tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish. The sauce should NOT be applied in a thick layer, more like a glue for the next slice.
14 Next apply a layer of the baked eggplant slices on top of the sauce. Layer the eggplant as evenly as you can, The eggplant should not overlap - it's OK to have some gaps in between the slices.
15 Lightly spread a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the bottom of eggplant. Again the sauce should NOT be applied in a thick layer, more like your would lightly spread jam on piece of toast - you should see the eggplant layer.
16 Next apply a layer of calamari and on top of that a bit more tomato sauce. Gaps are OK, but try to keep the layers as flat as possible without a hump in the middle. Don't worry about completely filing the edges along the pan sides with sauce, we will add white wine later to fill any gaps.
17 Continue stacking alternate layers of eggplant, tomato sauce and calamari, ending with a final layer of eggplant, seven layers in all.
18 Spread the remaining tomato sauce on the top of the eggplant, then cover completely with the bread crumbs. Finally pour a little white wine carefully around the edges of the pan if you have any gaps and place into the 350F oven.
19 Bake for 40 to 50 minutes minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the wine is bubbling around the edges of the pan. When done. remove form the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
20 To serve, slice into individual portions. Place a portion on a dish spooning a bit of the wine and juices around the slice, and sprinkle with a bit of chopped fresh oregano.
Although the main ingredient is calamari, the fresh tomato sauce sets the pace for wine pairing. It will go very well with a light red wine with low tannins like a Valdiguié .