Though better known around these parts for his inventive creations at DaPietro’s Restaurant in Westport, chef Pietro Scotti is all about tradition when it comes to the holidays. Leading up to Christmas, he bakes and decorates gingerbread houses with his kids, Tomaso, 7, and Lucia, 5, and sips festive hot cider with star anise, cinnamon and orange slices. He also bakes “Chicolino,” a bread with prosciutto and egg filling and a traditional sweet baked dessert that includes capellini pasta (go figure!), candied fruit, sugar, eggs and vanilla.
Hailing from Ischia, a tiny fishing village in Italy, Pietro recalls fondly his family shopping excursions to the waterfront dock. There, his mother chose fish so fresh it was literally splashing around in buckets for his family’s “Feast of the Seven Fishes” Christmas Eve meal.
When asked to provide CTbites with a favorite holiday recipe, Pietro chose this grilled calamari salad because it’s simple, clean and easy to prepare—a modern riff on a classic—but also because it reminds him of his childhood. Isn’t that what traditional holiday cooking is all about?
Pietro’s Grilled Calamari Salad
Ingredients for Grilled Calamari
1 lb medium-sized fresh calamari, cleaned (your fish monger will clean for you!)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
3 lemons, juiced and pitted
3 tbsp. flat-leaf, Italian parsley, cleaned and chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper
Ingredients for Salad
1/4 lb Mesclun salad greens
1 Belgian endive, julienned (cut into thin ribbons)
1 lemon, juiced and pitted
1 lemon, sliced in quarters for garnish
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
You will need both a grill pan and a sauté pan. Drizzle one half of the olive oil over the calamari and a pinch of salt and pepper, as a marinade. Set aside in a covered bowl for about an hour in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook, place grill pan over high heat and a sauté pan over medium heat.
When the grill pan is very hot, place the calamari on top for one minute, then flip and grill the other side for another minute.
Next, add garlic and remaining olive oil to the heated sauté pan, reduce heat and sauté garlic until translucent, making sure not to burn. Add grilled calamari to the sauté pan, followed by remaining lemon juice, and sauté for one minute. Turn off the heat and add the parsley.
With a tongs, divide the calamari onto 4 plates and place around the edge of the plate in a circle, drizzling the remaining sauce from the pan evenly over calamari on each plate. Combine the salad ingredients, toss, and place in the center of each plate. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.