Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chargrilled Calamari with Hot-and-Sour Dipping Sauce

Calamari—or squid, when it’s not on your plate—is a very versatile seafood that you can slice into thin rings before cooking or stuff whole tubes with a variety of fillings. Cooking time is especially important with calamari. It should be either low and slow or hot and fast, as here. (Somewhere in between can result in tough texture for the squid.)

Most fish and seafood benefit from a quick preparation under high heat. That’s where chargrilling comes in. It takes only minutes to render smoky, rich grilled flavor to tender calamari. And don’t be squeamish—the tentacles are scrumptious too, and they grill just as easily as the squid bodies.

Calamari Tubes and Tentacles
A bright and boldly flavored sauce makes a great accompaniment for the charred calamari. Here, I combined common Chinese and Thai ingredients for a simple yet wonderfully balanced hot and sour finish, with just a hint of sweetness.

Lemon zest, chiles, garlic, and ginger are simmered with the liquid ingredients, then the sauce is strained through a sieve before serving. Stir in chopped herbs for a little floral essence.

Tip: Use a vegetable peeler to easily remove the lemon zest (yellow part only):


Serves 3-4

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • zest strips from half a large lemon
  • 3 red Thai chiles, stems removed
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut lengthwise in half
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 lb cleaned calamari tubes and tentacles
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Solids for the Dipping Sauce
  1. Light a grill for high heat.
  2. Combine the first 9 ingredients (vinegar through ginger) in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently until sugar dissolves.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain the sauce through a sieve over a bowl. Discard solids. Stir in the cilantro and mint leaves and let stand while the calamari grills.
Sauce Ready to Simmer 
Cooked Sauce 
Hot-and-Sour Dipping Sauce
  1. Place the calamari tubes and tentacles in a bowl and drizzle with sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  2. Grill until lightly charred and tender, 3-4 minutes per side, moving off heat to prevent burning, if needed.
Season with Sesame Oil, Salt, and Pepper 
Calamari Beginning to Grill 
Calamari after Turning
To serve, divide the hot-and-sour sauce among individual small bowls and serve alongside the calamari.

Chargrilled Calamari with Hot-and-Sour Dipping Sauce

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