Fried Calamari Salad with Caperberries and Lemon Aioli

Looking back on my life, I recognize the most effective heart-felt lessons have been extremely painful to learn.

Often we hope and pray for smooth sailing;–for health, wealth, and loving relationships. We claim to be teachable in the good times, but it’s the harrowing moments that force us to stare our character in the face, and make adjustments.

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. ~C.S. Lewis

My husband and I would agree, that it’s the lean times that have taught us to be wise with our money. It’s the moments when it seems the fire is gone, that have taught us to prioritize our marriage. It’s the behavioral issues that have taught us to be patient, but firm with our children.

The good times are fun and easy… but that’s it. I’m not wishing for doom and gloom to come upon my life so that I can continue learning. I’m just pointing out, the rough times are worthwhile. Tests will either break you, or draw out your creativity, resolve and resourcefulness.

Have you ever noticed that people who have floated through life have NO problem solving skills what-so-ever? Then when the rains come, they are completely washed away by their troubles. On the other hand, those who have been through a lot in life, are poised to attack the problem and gain understanding for the next battle. If you think about it, most millionaires, noble prize winners, and historic world-changers could tell you story after story of their failures, but they pressed on…  Just something to ponder today.

The same rules apply in the kitchen. Of course, we don’t want our steak to burn or souffle to collapse, but when they do, we assess, correct and come away a stronger cook. This is no time to throw up our hands and choose to avoid the kitchen. Cooking can be a battle, but it’s worth the fight.

I have two goals in presenting this fried calamari recipe today. First, to offer you a lovely meal that is perfect for a main course or first-course. Second, I want to address some common cooking issues that I’ve had to learn through trail and error over the years.

These lovely dishes and bowl came from Villeroy & Boch’s Green Garland and My Garden Collections.

What do I do if my aioli is runny? I’ve had this happen on several occasions. Watery aioli is caused by one of two things: Either your egg yolks were cold, or you added the oil too fast for the aioli to emulsify.   This is easy to fix. First, nip the issue in the bud by starting your ailoi with room-temperature egg yolks. Then puree/beat/whisk them into a frenzy before ever adding the oil. I usually puree the egg yolks in the food processor for 1-2 minutes, before moving on. If you tried this and you still have runny aioli, pour the aioli into a bowl. Add one more egg yolk to the processor and whip the fire out of it! Then SLOWLY pour your original aioli back into the food processor. Your aioli should firm up quickly.

How can I keep my greens and herbs from getting bruised edges when I cut them? This is a common problem; you cut your basil into lovely green julienne strips, and the next thing you know, all the edges are black! This can’t be completely avoided for some preparations, but the general rule is that your greens will bruise less and hold up longer if you hand-tear them. When you tear them, you aren’t applying any pressure on the line of division, so there’s less damage. When you must slice your greens, you could add a little lemon juice to guard against bruising, if it doesn’t contradict the flavors in the dish.

Why aren’t my fried foods crispy? Nothing is worse than soggy fried calamari. Now, I’m not an expert on this, because I generally avoid frying. But I can tell you, oil temperature and cornstarch make a huge difference. If your oil isn’t heated to the proper temperature, your either burn the breading before the interior or cook through, or overcook the calamari, both result in textural issues. A good standard temperature for frying is 375 degrees F. It worth buying a thermometer to make sure you’ve got the temperature right. Also make sure that you bring the temperature back up between batches.

Cornstarch. All I can say is that cornstarch and frying were Meant To Be. Batter or breading with cornstarch in it, tends to have a superior crunch factor, over those with just flour or cornmeal. Give it a try.

Why is my Calamari rubbery? This is always due to overcooking. Always. Calamari cooks in a flash, so don’t be afraid to pull them out in a hurry.

I hope my errors bring you some success!

This Fried Calamari Salad with Caperberries and Lemon Aioli is vibrant, crisp, and slightly indulgent. The crunchy coating on the calamari works well with the silky texture of the aioli–and both provide a sumptuous quality to an otherwise light dish.  The caperberries offer a sharp bite that complements the rich ailoi. If you can’t find them substitute capers or your favorite olives.

To Prepare:

Heat a large pot with 1-2 quarts of oil to 375 degrees F.

Slice the calamari tubes into ½ inch rings, and trim the tentacles if needed.

Mix the cornstarch, flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper in a pan. Pat the calamari rings dry, then dredge them in the flour mixture.Shake off the excess flour, then working in batches gently place the calamari down in the oil, Stir so the calamari with separate. Cook for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, until the breading in light golden brown. Remove with a skimmer and place on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with the rest. Keep warm in a 200 degree F oven if not eating immediately.

(Sorry, the frying happens so quickly I couldn’t get a good photo.)

Place the garlic, egg yolks and cayenne in the food processor. Puree until lighter in color and texture—1-2 minutes.

Then slowly add in the oil until the aioli thickens. Blend in the lemon zest, and half the juice. Taste, then season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if needed. Set aside.

Tear the watercress off the stems and the basil leaves into large pieces. Arrange on plates. Top with halved cherry tomatoes, red onions and caperberries. Place a portion of calamari on the top and serve with aioli!

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Yield: 4 for dinner or 8 for a first-course.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 5-10 minutes

Fried Calamari Salad with Caperberries and Lemon Aioli

Ingredients:

For the Calamari:
1 ½ lb. calamari
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup corn meal
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Oil for Frying

For the Aioli:
3 egg yolks
1 clove garlic
2 dashes cayenne pepper
¾ cup oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced

For the Salad:
2 bunches watercress
1 bunch basil leaves
½ small red onion, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
7 oz. jar caperbarries, drained

Directions:

Heat a large pot with 1-2 quarts of oil to 375 degrees F. Slice the calamari tubes into ½ inch rings, and trim the tentacles if needed. Mix the cornstarch, flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper in a pan. Pat the calamari rings dry, then dredge them in the flour mixture.

Shake off the excess flour, then working in batches gently place the calamari down in the oil, Stir so the calamari with separate. Cook for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, until the breading in light golden brown. Remove with a skimmer and place on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with the rest. Keep warm in a 200 degree F oven if not eating immediately.

Place the garlic, egg yolks and cayenne in the food processor. Puree until lighter in color and texture—1-2 minutes. Then slowly add in the oil until the aioli thickens. Blend in the lemon zest, and half the juice. Taste, then season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if needed. Set aside.

Tear the watercress off the stems and the basil leaves into large pieces. Arrange on plates. Top with halved cherry tomatoes, red onions and caperberries. Place a portion of calamari on the top and serve with aioli!

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44 Responses to “Fried Calamari Salad with Caperberries and Lemon Aioli”

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    Belinda @zomppa — May 2, 2011 @ 5:59 am

    I LOVE fried calamari – and this looks perfectly fried!

    Reply

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    Maris (In Good Taste) — May 2, 2011 @ 6:07 am

    I really like this post and the truly heartfelt feelings that you have shared. Calamari is something I will order out but have never tried myself I just may now!

    Reply

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    elle marie — May 2, 2011 @ 6:50 am

    Did you bake this? I really do love Calamari, oh goodness, did I tell you I use potato starch instead of corn, have you had a chance to use potato starch before? Thank you for sharing your story with me (us) I think it’s quite true, I’ve learned through hardships when I saw others always seemingly always sailing smoothly… Thank you for your honesty!.

    Reply

    • Sommer — May 2nd, 2011 @ 6:56 am

      I’ve used potato starch plenty, but have never fried with it. I’ll have to try that. :)

      Reply

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    5 Star Foodie — May 2, 2011 @ 6:54 am

    What a beautiful salad, love those caperberries and your lemon aioli sounds excellent. Great tips too.

    Reply

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    Devaki@weavethousandflavors — May 2, 2011 @ 7:00 am

    What a wonderful lesson in both life & food :) Perfect!

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

    Reply

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    pachecopatty — May 2, 2011 @ 7:03 am

    Hi Sommer, I couldn’t agree with you more on the often difficult learning curve that life throws at us, good thing we have such wonderful food to cook and eat along the way. Take care, Patty

    Reply

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    Parsley Sage — May 2, 2011 @ 7:29 am

    …making fried calamari at home. I’m embarrassed to admit I had never thought of that. S’ok because I can take a crack at it now that I know and if I fail…welp, I’ll adjust and correct and knock that recipe out of the park on the second attempt :) Thanks so much for sharing, lovely post!

    Reply

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    Tricia B — May 2, 2011 @ 7:34 am

    You are fearless! Amazing photos, tips and recipe! Really great info. Thanks :)

    Reply

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    sonia — May 2, 2011 @ 7:39 am

    Hi Dear, The salad is looking absolutely delightful. Loved the new combo of ingredients and the recipe is so nicely made and presented. Saving this recipe of urs and wud love to give ur version a try on the coming weekend. Have a great day….Sonia !!!

    Reply

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    Gwenevere — May 2, 2011 @ 7:58 am

    Calamari has always made me a little squeamish, but I could give it a try. Thanks for the giveaway I never win anything but with this, I can share the love with everyone I know-one small dessert at a time.

    Reply

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    Linda — May 2, 2011 @ 8:33 am

    Sommer, this is a great post on so many levels! I totally agree with your view on the ups and downs of life, I tell my kids that life is a series of problems, just like Math, solve the problem (good or bad) and move on!! Calamari is something I always order out, but never make at home. I’ve done the Italian marinated salads, but never fried as my worries are all the ones you posted! You’ve definitely provided me confidence and step by step instructions to finally try it out!

    Reply

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    Nelly Rodriguez — May 2, 2011 @ 8:35 am

    Wish I had this for breakfast! Shopping through Chinatown I bought “waterchestnut starch” which is also great for frying! crispy coating instantly!

    Reply

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    Hester Casey - Alchemy — May 2, 2011 @ 9:10 am

    Great post – I agree that experience is a wonderful teacher and that hard times do sometimes make you dig deeper for resourcefulness, creativity, love etc. I also believe in learning by kitchen mistakes. Sometimes you learn an entirely new dish by mistake. Sometimes you learn not to repeat the process. Lovely calamari and I love your “What do I do when this happens” section too!

    Reply

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    carolinaheartstrings — May 2, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    What a great post. Enjoyed it. Wonderful recipe and pictures.

    Reply

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    Wonderful words of cooking wisdom. Thanks for passing them along. I think the bruised herb edges are my biggest error and frustration. :)

    Thank you too for the words of wisdom regarding life’s trials. Just yesterday I heard that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark. Why’d he even have to do that when the One who brought the flood could have poofed and ark into existence? The speaker said that while Noah was building the ark; the ark was building Noah’s character. I like that.

    Reply

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    Jennifurla — May 2, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

    Great tips, I have not made any of these things but feel inspired, what a LOVELY meal.

    Reply

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    Kate@Diethood.com — May 2, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

    You must have been listening in on my conversation with hubz yesterday… we were discussing my rubbery calamari!! :) Thank you soooo much for the tips – you are a life saver.

    Reply

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    Barton — May 2, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    Excellent words, photos and recipe tip, thanks. Here is my tip – Marinate calamari in kiwifruit for half an hour for a very tender experience, shake off before crumbing.

    Reply

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    Kelly — May 2, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

    Ooo this looks really delicious and the salad is so colorful! I’d love to make this up myself :)

    Reply

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    Gwen~healthymamma — May 2, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

    So very true, and in that case, I have outstanding problem solving skills, a master in fact! ;)
    I think life has really taught me, no forced me to be more patient, pick my battles and enjoy every single moment.
    Thanks for all the cooking tips, especially the cornstarch one! Who knew?!

    Reply

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    Celia — May 2, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

    I was sucked in at first by the caperberries (I have been known to eat them out of the jar), but I wound up loving all of this post. Especially the Q&A bit – great tips, and great way to structure them!

    Reply

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    Sprinkled With Flour — May 2, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

    Wow, you’re more ambitious than I am. I would be too scared to make my own fried calamari, but yours looks so perfectly delicious!

    Reply

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    Aldy — May 2, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

    What a gorgeous looking salad! Loving the flavor combination, Sommer.

    Bravo! :)

    Aldy.

    Reply

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    The Food Hound — May 2, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    I am making my own mayo this week, and I can’t wait to turn it into aioli!! Yes, the best lessons are learned through adversity- you have that right on the money!! Just like this calamari!!

    Reply

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    Sawsan@ chef in disguise — May 2, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

    It felt like you were talking about my day yesterday..I had my own disaster with muffins :)… and I strongly believe that the blow that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
    that salad looks amazing…looking forward to trying it out

    Reply

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    Jun — May 2, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

    Love this!!!

    Reply

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    Cherine — May 3, 2011 @ 12:03 am

    What a beautiful salad! Perfect for the summer days!

    Reply

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    Angie's Recipes — May 3, 2011 @ 2:03 am

    Calamari…when did I last have it? That’s about 2 decades ago.;-) Thanks for the tips on how to make the fried food crunchy!

    Reply

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    Ilke — May 3, 2011 @ 4:00 am

    You are so right! And during those bad times, when you think you do not have any more strength, you realize how much you have!
    I love calamari in summer :) Thanks for the tips!

    Reply

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    sweetlife — May 3, 2011 @ 10:42 am

    great post, I personally think that rough times in my life have made me the woman I am today…great tips, love the calamari !!

    sweetlife

    Reply

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    Lora @cakeduchess — May 3, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

    Hi Sommer-This is a lovely post and it is all so true! Your calamari look wonderful and I love this salad!

    Reply

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    Dmarie — May 3, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    beautiful pics, great tips, but SUCH a timely post for me. Earlier today I was talking with DH about a trial I went through earlier on that made me much smarter in some areas of my life. Today I said that I would NOT choose that trial even if I never learned the residual stuff, but now you make me rethink that… Worth reflecting upon, so, thanks, Spicy!

    Reply

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    Victoria @ Mission: Food — May 3, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

    I have always had issues making mayonnaise. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. I’ve used a blender, food processor, and tried by hand. By hand was the only time I was really successful believe it or not, but the last time I failed (maybe my egg yolk was too cold). In any case, love your tips!

    Reply

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    Magic of Spice — May 4, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    Great post Sommer and excellent tips…love your opening statements, so very true! I also love this salad, vibrant and lovely :)

    Reply

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    Trix — May 4, 2011 @ 10:41 am

    What you say is so true! (Though before I assess my kitchen mistakes, I tend to get mad and then cool off … and then come back and assess!) beautiful salad, the colors really draw me in.

    Reply

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    RSA Now — May 4, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    VERY helpful! I have yet to make a good aioli and need all the help I can get

    Reply

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    Biren @ Roti n Rice — May 4, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    Fried calamaris are such a treat! Such a vibrant salad!

    Reply

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    kankana — May 4, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

    wow calamari salad ! I always like that .. and you made it look super classy …

    Reply

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    Sara — May 4, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

    Thanks for the amazing (and wise) tips in life and in the kitchen. And for the great fried calamari recipe.

    Reply

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    torviewtoronto — May 4, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

    this looks delicious summery wonderful

    Reply

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    Geni — May 5, 2011 @ 4:50 am

    Beautiful dish…I love the huge capers! And thank you for all the helpful hints…trial and error, though frustrating as it may be, is certainly the one way to learn how to get something perfect!

    Reply

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    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — May 5, 2011 @ 6:14 am

    That’s how I learned everything I know about cooking and about life, I keep trying and trying until I figure it out. Still working on figuring out the life part, it’s much harder than cooking isn’t it, lol.

    Reply

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    sweetsugarbelle — January 3, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    Looks wonderful!!!

    Reply

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