A Summer of Salads – February

I’m feeling very proud of my lettuces at the moment.  Late last month I planted out my lettuce seedlings into the bed that the potatoes had been in.

The above picture shows the plants on the 31st January. This next shot shows them on 17th of February.

Despite daily harvests they have pretty much tripled in size in 3 weeks.  It would appear that lettuces love being grown in a mix of pea straw and  well rotted manure.  I am picking leaves off them daily but aside from the occasional slightly lopsided one you can’t really tell as they are growing so well.

I potted up the next batch of seedlings last Sunday, as a couple of the current lot are showing signs of bolting, – hardly surprising given it is February (today’s temp 37 C).  I plan to sow more seed next week, so I am feeling very much of top of the salad leaves situation.

As its summer I also have large amounts of aromatic herbs in the garden.  Vietnamese mint, Thai Basil, Common Mint and Perilla and it is these that I combined with some salad leaves to produce a lovely warm calamari salad.

Before I tell you the recipe though I just wanted to clarify something that has troubled me in the past and that is the difference between squid and calamari.  According to my fishmonger; calamari is a type of squid which is particulary prized by Australian’s of Italian background hence the  use of the Italian name.  The calamari variety has the sweetest flesh and is generally thinner than varieties known simply as ‘squid’.  It is also a good $18kg more expensive than ‘squid’, at my fishmonger.  Whether this is justified in a dish like this one I will leave up to the reader but personally I used squid in my dish and it tasted good!  Incidently the difference between Arrowhead squid and just ‘squid’ is the method of catching.  Arrowhead squid is line caught whilst ‘squid’ is caught as a byproduct of fishing (for fish) with nets.  Arrowhead is generally more expensive than ‘squid’ but cheaper than calamari.  Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn by asking a fishmonger a simple question?

This recipe, for which you can use any squid variety, is based on one in Teague Ezard (a fabulous Melbourne based chef)’s book, Ezard.  Whilst this recipe may appear long the end result is fabulous and worth the effort.  It also doesn’t take nearly as long as the ingredients list suggests it might.

When buying the squid the frozen tubes you can buy are fine for this dish and will save you the hassle of cleaning the squid yourself.  Unfortunately my fishmonger doesn’t sell them (how often is it that you actively want frozen seafood over fresh?  And yet here it is useful…) so I buy the fresh stuff and then have to clean it.  Not my most favourite job in the world…..

Spicy Calamari Salad

  • 2 large squid, cleaned and sliced into thin (about 2mm across) strips
  • 1 tbspn rice flour
  • Sunflower oil (or similar) for deep frying

For the seasoning:                                      

  • 1 tbspn rock salt (or salt flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp 5 spice powder

For the salad:

  • 200g of mixed leaves.  I used Vietnamese Mint, Mint, Thai Basil, Coriander, Perilla, Sorrel and a few different varieties of lettuce.
  • 1 cucumber.
  • 1 tbspn lime juice
  • 1 tbspn lemon juice
  • 1 tbspn palm sugar (or soft brown sugar if you can’t get palm sugar)
  • 1 tbspn extra virgin olive oil

For the garnish:

  •  2 cloves garlic – thinly sliced
  • a 2cm cube of ginger – thinly sliced
  • 1 red chilli – thinly sliced

First make the seasoning.  In a coffee or spice grinder grind together the ingredients for the seasoning.  Set aside.  You will having seasoning left over for next time you make the dish.

To make the salad: pick the herb leaves from their stems, rip the lettuce, perilla and sorrel leaves into pieces.  Slice the cucumber.  Although I didn’t use it this time you could also add onion to the salad.  To make the dressing mix together the juices, sugar and olive oil.  Set aside.

Heat oil for deep frying.  Fry the garnish slices in the hot oil until they just start to colour.  Remove, drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Put the rice flour on a plate, making sure the squid is fairly dry roll the squid in the rice flour until it is coated.  Fry the rice flour coated squid in the hot oil until it starts to brown, this should only take a minute or two.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle with some seasoning.  Check seasoning level and adjust if neccessary.

To assemble the salad, place a handful of salad including the cucumber on each plate.  Place squid on top.  Add garnish then pour some dressing over the whole thing.  Serve immediately.

I’m sharing this post as part of Salad Days, for more head over to VegPlotting.

This entry was posted in Greens - Lettuce, Spinach, Beets, Herbs & Spices, Recipes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to A Summer of Salads – February

  1. L says:

    Oh, that’s what I love – a salad that involves deep-frying 🙂

  2. VP says:

    Hi – I really love the look of your salad. I’m inspired by your post to try using mint a lot more in my salads this year. I love Thai basil too – roll on summer!

    Thanks for taking part in the Challenge 🙂

    • Liz says:

      I am a huge fan of mint. We get a lot of Vietnamese food here and they use heaps in their dishes – and I seem to have picked up the habit.

  3. Mel says:

    Ooh, this all reminds me of my wonderful holiday. Better than penance salad any day, although weeds can be tasty too.

    Also, thanks for the explanation about the different kinds of squid. I would go for the line caught ones, but that is because I’m trying not to encourage unsustainable fishing. Having been caught out by terminology (ie what you call mackerel is definitely not what we call mackerel – although it is tasty!) I will probably double check that Arrow squid is the same up here, and then see if I can find it.

    • Liz says:

      I did asked the fishmonger about whether line caught was more sustainable but she didn’t seem to think there was much difference. Having said that she was a bit vague at that point so I suspect you are right about it being a better method.

      • L says:

        Line-caught simply must be more sustainable. It is also a great deal of fun. Calamari catching with squid jigs was one of my favorite types of fishing as a child, and you don’t even need bait! They use a jig, which is like a lure (fish-shaped to attract the squid) with two rows of barbs to catch them. A messy activity though 🙂

        • Liz says:

          I shall speak sternly to my parents, they never took me calamari fishing – abelone diving, normal fishing, oyster fossicking but never calamari catching. How do you kill them?

  4. Mark Willis says:

    Great-looking lettuces. It’s always nice to have a variety of colours and textures to choose from.
    Can’t say the same for the squid (you know I don’t eat fish), and from what I’ve heard they all have the texture of rubber tyres anyway! 🙂

  5. kitsapFG says:

    Your lettuces look fabulous! They indeed look very happy with the soil mix they are growing in. I am looking forward to soon being in our peak lettuce season (April – May) as I miss eating traditional lettuce salads during the winter when we eat mixed greens of various more hardy items.

  6. I add mint to my salads too but I’ll just have the salad thank you – someone else can have the squid of calamari

    • Liz says:

      Really? Its one of my favourite things to eat- particularly with a bit of chilli.

      • L says:

        I’m starting to think that we Aussies must cook calamari particularly well. Surely it isn’t possible for anyone to dislike deep fried calamari when it’s done right?

        • Liz says:

          I have to say I’m with you on this, but then I did eat some decent stuff in the UK, having said that though I once ate it there and it hadn’t been cleaned properly and it was the most disgusted thing I’ve ever tasted.

      • I have strange tastes like Mark – definitely no seafood in our house – never tasted it and never want to!

        • Liz says:

          Isn’t it funny how different people’s tastes in food can be. You’ve really never had seafood?

          • No – it’s never passed my lips – Martyn had prawns once and was violently sick – something he never is. I just had the sauce from around the prawns and was queasy. T0 be honest to my mind its like eating insects as many belong to the same families as some insects.

          • Liz says:

            I was reading the other day that insects will become an integral part of people’s diets in the future as the pressure grows to feed a growing population. I have to say that I’m not altogether upset that i probably wont be around to see that day come though….

  7. Andrea says:

    Your summer of salads continue to inspire, beaut healthy lettuce(yes be proud) and a reminder to keep planting seeds and seedlings for continual harvests(job to do this week).
    Oh i love calamari but have never cooked it, Hubby has a sensitive stomach so no seafood or spicy food(and only eats tomato soup!!) i tend to cook plainer meals which was easier when we had 5 children at home.(fast and lots of it)
    The other half is away for a few days this week so i’m going to give your beaut calamari salad a go (will have to settle for frozen i think) as well as a curry and of course one meal out plenty of great places to eat in both Castlemaine and Daylesford!

    • Liz says:

      I really hope you enjoy it, especially as you are using one of your few opportunities to cook it. I think the frozen is easier and limits the possibility of spraying the kitchen with ink… Its amazing how much that Castlemaine and Daylesford area has changed from a culinary perspective. I remember a time when pretty much the only thing you could get to eat in Castlemaine was a pie and sauce.

  8. KL says:

    You are a great chef! I would love the dish without the squid.

  9. Gardenglut says:

    Loved your lettuces, esp the red speckled ones.

  10. Lrong says:

    Very handsome looking greens…

  11. Oh my goodness you have it hot!! Those lettuce look fab…can’t wait now for our summer…I’ll just pass on the Calamari though…

  12. cindyrina says:

    You lettuce grow very well!!! The calamari salad…love to try that… passing by!!!!

  13. Alas, I too will pass on the calamari…my husband loves seafood, and I have given it a good try, but to no avail. However your lettuces look great!

  14. Sri Ranjani says:

    Now that is my kind of salad. I should cook this very shortly since all my lettuce, mint, basil are all showing signs of bolting too. Also I would sprinkle the salad with some white sesame seeds as a final flourish to make it look like professional made salad.

  15. leduesorelle says:

    Delicious looking salad, and will have to try frying with rice flour! Our household is omnivorous, but generally draw the line at insects…

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