Chef at home

I enjoy eating squid in all its incarnations. Whether it’s cooked adobe-style, breaded and fried, or simply grilled, I just love its unique flavor and texture. For this month, I want to share with you a salad recipe which reminds me of a favorite appetizer served in Japanese restaurants. It is usually offered in small portions—an amuse b o u c h e, if you will. It’s a small bite with extraordinary flavors that is meant to excite your palate for the meal ahead.

When cooked too long, squid becomes gummy and tough. In this recipe, the squid is just blanched until it changes color. I added some thinly sliced cucumbers and carrots for texture, along with fried t o k w a, which adds a delightful crunch to the dish. This is a family favorite and it has become a mainstay in my repertoire of Japanese dishes. As they do in restaurants, I always serve this chilled, since the flavors become more concentrated and pronounced that way.

SQUID AND CHEESE SALAD

Serves 6 Prep Time 20 minutes

Cooking Time 5 minutes, plus chilling time

— 450 grams squid, cleaned and sliced

— salt and pepper, to taste

— 1/3 cup corn oil

— 1 (100-gram) block firm cheese (t o k w a), sliced and drained

— 1 Japanese cucumber, washed and thinly sliced

— 1 small carrot, julienne

— 12 leaves iceberg or curly lettuce, washed, spun dry, and chilled

FOR THE SAUCE

— 2 tablespoons water

— 3 tablespoons sugar

— 1/4 cup white vinegar

— 1 tablespoon mirin

— 2 teaspoons soy sauce (we used Kikkoman)

— salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1) Blanch squid rings in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, just until it changes color. Immediately remove from the pot and transfer to an ice bath.

2) Remove squid from ice bath.

Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

3) Heat oil in a frying pan. Drain on paper towels and chop into small cubes. Set aside.

4) Make the sauce: Mix together all ingredients in a bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves.

5) Add cooked squid, cucumber, carrots, and t o k w a to the sauce. Chill until ready to serve.

6) To serve, lay lettuce leaves on a serving platter. Top with the chilled squid salad.

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