This was the first year that my kids both took interest in helping me in the kitchen for Thanksgiving. I loved it. There has been a tendency for me to write off any help because of my control issues. My husband loves asking the rhetorical question – often asked during my 96 hour push to put out a Thanksgiving spread – “Honey, what do you need me to do?”, to which the usual answer is, “Nothing dear”, and so he gets to go about his business. But when my kids each asked individually at various times during my 4 day meal prep if they could help, I paused and realized that this is what the joy of cooking is all about. Ok, so my son needs a little work using the bench scraper and that there is an art to stirring while keeping the food in the bowl, but I’m sure that will improve with time. I got yelled at when he caught me adding more olives to the dish, because scooping them up was apparently his job now. I would love for my kids to be able to say when they are older that they loved to help their mother and father in the kitchen ever since they were seven. And now they can. I hope they keep loving it because I need to relinquish some control, or else I think that my husband will have me committed. To sit at the Thanksgiving dinner table and in the middle of the 12 conversations going on at once, hear your son say “I made that salad….and (laughing slyly) I put too much salt in it too!”, was one of the proudest moments in my life. Proud to know that we created a memory together. Proud that he thought enough of the memory to share it. Proud that the salad wasn’t too salty but letting him believe that it was and that it was ok.
lemon calamari salad (inspired by Gourmet Magazine)
2 lbs cleaned calamari tubes (if you like the tentacles go for it)
1/2 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced (leaves too)
1/2 large red pepper, diced
2 small tomatoes, halved, seeded, diced
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced (fronds too)
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
3 lemons, juiced
salt and pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper
extra virgin olive oil
get started on the calamari salad:
Get a bowl and fill with cold water and ice and set aside. Start a pot of salted boiling water. Slice the calamari in 1/4″ slices. Add calamari to the boiling water and don’t go anywhere. In 45 seconds to 1 minute they will be opaque and done. They should be tender, not rubber. Taste a larger calamari at 45 seconds and determine if you should keep them on the heat for a few more seconds. You will be inclined to let them keep cooking because you might think 1 minute isn’t enough time, but it is. Drain in a colander and transfer to the ice bath immediately. Let cool. Drain cooked calamari on some paper towels. Add the next 8 ingredients and mix together. Add in the calamari and stir to combine. Drizzle about 1/4 cup olive oil and stir to coat. Taste salad to see if additional lemon or seasoning is needed. Keep chilled until served.
note: I don’t stress too much about seeding tomatoes, but the easiest way I know is to slice them through the middle – not through the stem end – and with one hand, fit my fingers right into the chambers while slightly squeezing the tomato with the other hand and shaking the seeds out. Also, this is enough for an army. You can easily halve this and you will have plenty for 6-8 servings.