Summer Calamari Pasta

At summer’s end, the last of the heirloom tomatoes that come from our garden are usually in less than pristine condition—the cooler nighttime temperatures, plus the shock of excess water intake from an occasional early autumn rain after months of hot, dry conditions tend to make most of our late tomatoes, but especially the thinner-skinned heirloom varieties, split. Although they look ugly, with a little judicious surgery they can still be used, and that special, rich flavor of heirlooms enjoyed.

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Earlier this week, using the last of our heirlooms, we created a “goodbye to summer” dish that really showcases the bright flavors of summer tomatoes and fresh herbs, and is fairly quick and easy to prepare. Here are the ingredients you’ll need, for an amount to serve two:

  • One large fresh tomato, heirloom if available, or two medium ones
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions
  • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic
  • One jalapeno pepper
  • One to two limes
  • Mushrooms
  • Butter and olive oil
  • 1 pint of calamari
  • Pasta (we used bucatini)
  • Parmesan cheese

First, make the tomato sauce so its flavors can be melding. Over a bowl so that you catch all of the juice, cut out any splits or other bad parts of the tomato and discard them (we feed them to our chickens), then, while holding it by the stem, with a sharp knife slice a cross-hatch pattern into its surface, then slice under the cuts about a half inch down to separate the pieces, and repeat until the entire tomato has been diced. Be careful not to cut yourself!

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Finely mince enough cilantro to make two to three tablespoons, and chop a similar amount of green onion tops. Coarsely chop the garlic and jalapeno (we ended up using two instead of one, because the red one had no heat). Add all to the diced tomato. Juice the lime, add the juice (if the lime is juicy, one will be enough, but use two if it’s dry), and stir to mix the ingredients. Add salt to taste, and set the tomato mixture aside.

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Begin heating the water for the pasta, then prepare the mushroom topping.  Using whatever mushrooms you have available or prefer—we happened to have some chanterelles, maitakes, and shitakes on hand, so used a mix of all three—chop the mushrooms, then sauté them in butter until they are just beginning to get crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.

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Cook the pasta according to directions. We used bucatini, which looks like thick spaghetti but the noodles are hollow inside, because its chewy texture made a nice contrast to the delicacy of the topping. While the pasta is cooking, cook the calamari by adding a small amount of olive oil to a saucepan, adding the calamari, and simmering on low while stirring. The calamari will give off liquid as it cooks. Be careful not to cook it too long, or it will get tough. Once the edges of the rings begin to curl, it’s tender and done.

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Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour some of the liquid from the calamari over it and toss to coat. Serve in bowls as follows: add desired amount of pasta, top with calamari (use a slotted spoon to serve it, to avoid adding too much liquid), top with the tomato sauce, then sprinkle crispy mushrooms and a little grated Parmesan cheese on top to finish.

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