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In the Kitchen with Vital Choice

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Cook's Test: Orecchiette with Grilled Calamari
Weeknight-friendly pasta centered around delicious, grilled calamari.

Welcome to Vital Choice at Home!
This series features me, Michelle – a writer and soccer mom from the Rocky Mountains – my husband and two kids, some beautiful Vital Choice seafood and lots of regular home cooking.
(Click here to learn more about me, below.)
I want to feature the products and preparations you're curious about.
Have a suggestion? Question? Recipe you want me to test?
Email me and help to shape this series.

Let's be frank – calamari requires a slightly adventurous approach.
The reality in my house is that the women enjoy almost anything and the men, not as much.
So, for last night's dinner, I wanted to experiment with a light, fresh calamari dish, as opposed to delicious-yet-greasy fried calamari.
But the meal needed to be friendly for my husband and son, who were reticent about food with tentacles.
The answer – a beautiful, simple pasta dish, topped with the grilled protein of your choice … calamari for the girls, chicken for the guys! 
This meal came together in a matter of minutes, making it perfect for evenings when you want something, fresh and tasty, but also quick and easy.
Calamari 101 – the simplicity of grilled squid
My prior squid experience before last night was the same as many of yours, probably – I'd only had fried calamari dipped in a simple marinara.
Of course, this can be delicious (although it can also be rubbery if overcooked).
But deep frying such beautiful fish just seems wrong and definitely isn't what I have in mind for a family dinner.
I thawed my Vital Choice Wild Pacific Calamari overnight in the fridge, so it would be supple and easy to work with. However, if you're pressed for time, it can go straight from the freezer to the grill.
Each 1/2 lb. package of calamari includes tubes and crowns (tentacles). You can see from my picture of the prepped calamari that I had five tentacles and 8 tubes in one package. This is plenty for 2-3 diners.
Before grilling, the calamari had a very mild, briny sea smell (not overly fishy), but after grilling it took on the lightest touch of a smoky flavor – delicious!
Much of the calamari (frankly, much of the seafood) you're served in restaurants is overcooked, which gives it a rubbery texture.
However, after just three minutes on a medium-high grill, you can see that the tubes took on light grill marks, the ends of the tentacles were slightly charred, and everything sliced up so easily. No rubbery texture at all!
The flavor was wonderfully mild and paired beautifully with this pasta. I believe next time I'll try this atop a seasonal risotto – the possibilities are endless!
The recipe – 30 minutes from cutting board to table
This preparation was inspired by a slightly more complex recipe I discovered in Food & Wine.
I like this simple approach because a) I could make one pasta dish for everyone, then top it with the protein of their choice and b) because it would easily flex with whatever green was fresh.
For this meal, I used orecchiette, "little ears” pasta, which originated in Southern Italy. Of course, use whatever you have on hand!
I served this pasta with a roasted delicata squash:
  • To prepare, slice the squash in half lengthwise, scrape the seeds out and slice each half into 1/4-inch half moons.
  • Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes in a 425º oven, turning the squash over every 10 minutes to ensure even roasting.
Orecchiette with Grilled Calamari & Arugula
Adapted from Food & Wine magazine
Serves 4 8 oz. wild Atlantic calamari (thaw in the refrigerator overnight or use frozen)
1 teaspoon olive oil salt and pepper to taste
12 oz. orecchiette (or similar pasta) 
2 large cloves of garlic, minced pinch of red pepper flakes 
2 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil (or other cooking oil of choice)
juice of 1 lemon splash of white wine (optional)
4 cups fresh baby arugula (or other tender green) freshly grated
Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
  1. Preheat the grill to medium high and lightly brush the calamari with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Sauté the garlic for 3-5 minutes, until it begins brown slightly. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and sauté one minute.
  4. If you're using white wine, add a splash now and let the sauce cook down, 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  5. If you choose to use a sturdier green, you could add it to the sauce now and let it slowly wilt as you grill the calamari. I used baby arugula, which didn't require wilting. 
  6. Toss together the pasta, lemony garlic sauce and baby arugula and divide between four plates.
  7. Grill the calamari on medium-high, turning once, 2-3 minutes. Don't leave the grill during this process – the calamari cooks quickly and can become rubbery if you overcook it.
  8. Halve each tentacle and slice each tube into rings. Divide among plates of pasta, top with a light dusting of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if you like and serve.
My rating: 3 out of 4 stars

A Note from Michelle
Like you, I have a passion for beautiful-yet-healthy food that's easy to prepare.
While I do love making the occasional "fancy” dinner, most of the time I'm short on time and have a house full of hungry people who want to eat NOW.
I'm not a professional chef – just a busy mom who loves to cook and who's focused on that intersection of healthy and delicious.
I want this series to feature the products and preparations you're curious about.
Have a suggestion? Question? Recipe you want me to test?
Email me and help to shape this series.
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