Fried Calamari with Two Dipping Sauces: Marinara and Aioli

I love all things seafood. Maybe it’s my upbringing in the landlocked Midwest and therefore lack of fresh seafood or that I was fed pureed sushi as a baby, or maybe its just my appreciation for it from a culinary standpoint. Whatever it is, you will see a few more Paula Peck seafood recipes on here soon. I had to modify this one quite a bit from the original in “The Art of Good Cooking.” The flour liquid proportions were pretty far off and had to be corrected. I also prefer to use a beer batter for both texture and flavor. This is not the breaded style fried calamari often served as bar food, but more of a tempura style. Though perfectly delicious on it’s own with a squeeze of lemon as noted in the original recipe, I like to take it a step further with a couple different dipping sauces: a simple marinara and a lemon aioli. The aioli is my favorite. I’ll eat it with just about anything fried, especially french fries. You can buy mayo and add lemon and garlic to make the aioli, but I really think it tastes much better homemade. This lemony garlicky sauce is the perfect complement to any seafood, especially this crunchy yet soft calamari. So enjoy this favorite bar food with an ice cold glass of beer at your next casual get together. Cheers!


1 pound small squid
vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups beer
1 lemon cut in wedges

Clean squid by washing under running water, rubbing off any outer speckled skin and pulling out all entrails. The fish will then be shaped liked tubes. Cut tubes into 1/4 inch slices.

Serves 6.

In a deep pan, heat 2-3 inches of oil to 375 degrees.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Whisk in beer. With a fork, dip slices of squid into batter and drop in oil. Fry until golden brown. Serve at once with lemon wedges.

Marinara Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a small onion, chopped
pinch crushed red pepper
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
salt, pepper

Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. When hot, add garlic and onion. Saute for 1 minute. Add crushed red pepper. Saute for 1 more minute. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Aioli Sauce

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil mixed with 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine egg yolk, mustard, salt, and vinegar in a bowl or blender. Whisk or blend for 10-20 seconds. Begin adding oil drop by drop while whisking or blending until emulsified. Add the rest of oil in a steady stream. Once the mayonnaise is formed, add garlic and lemon juice.


Red Velvet Chocolate Souffle with Cream Cheese Icing Sauce

Red Velvet Chocolate Souffle with Cream Cheese Icing |

Red Velvet Chocolate Souffle with Cream Cheese Icing Sauce
So this is not a Paula Peck original recipe. In fact, although souffles are French and much of her work with James Beard was based on French recipes, I haven’t been able to find record of her making a souffle. When I asked my father about this, he had no recollection of her making one at all. It’s possible that somewhere between the issues of making sure that a souffle rises and the fact that it collapses within minutes after coming out of the oven, she found them to be too high maintenance for her minimalist approach to baking.

The thought of making a souffle often terrifies people. Before I went to culinary school, I tried making one a couple of times and failed miserably. I remember my nervousness the day we tackled the unit on souffles. We had to make 3 basic souffles: chocolate, fruit based, and cheese. My fear, of course, was that my souffles wouldn’t rise. The techniques and recipes turned out so solid that not only did all three rise, I don’t recall anyone in the class struggling with that unit at all. Unless I’m changing a recipe or testing one, I can usually turn out a technically correct souffle without a problem by sticking with the following tips:

– Do not over beat egg whites.
– Do let egg whites stand very long (they will deflate).
– Use a souffle mold with straight sides.
– Coat the molds with butter but also either sugar, Parmesan, or bread crumbs. I believe this helps the souffle grip the sides and rise.
– Most souffles should be baked in an oven at 375 to 400 degrees (if heat is too low, the souffle will flatten and spill out of dish. If too high, center will be liquid and top will be crusty)

Red Velvet Chocolate Souffle with Cream Cheese Icing |

Since souffles are somewhat old fashioned, I wanted to make one with a modern twist. With the popularity of red velvet cake and my love of cream cheese frosting, I took on this what’s old is new challenge. The resulting decadent warm red velvet chocolate souffle with a touch of sweet fruity Grand Marnier and tart cream cheese icing sauce definitely fits the bill.

Red Velvet Chocolate Souffle with Cream Cheese Icing Sauce


1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup milk
3.75 oz of bittersweet chocolate (63%-73%), finely chopped
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon red food coloring (amount may depend on brand used)
4 egg whites
Pinch salt
1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
Butter and sugar for coating molds
Cream Cheese Icing Sauce
3 oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoon unsalted softened butter
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat four 8oz soufflé molds with butter and sugar. Refrigerate molds.

Mix flour into softened butter. Bring milk to a boil. Thicken milk with butter flour mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes until thick. Remove from heat and add chocolate. When chocolate is melted, add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in Grand Marnier and Vanilla. Add food coloring and mix (add enough food coloring for a deep red color).

Whip the egg whites with pinch of salt. Gradually add sugar a little at a time. Whip until egg whites are stiff. Fold a quarter of the egg whites into chocolate base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites. Spoon or pour mixture into prepared molds, leaving a ¼ to the rim. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and place molds in middle of the oven. Bake 10-15 minutes until puffed.

Serve immediately with Cream Cheese Icing Sauce:

Heat butter and cream cheese in microwave for 20 seconds (or briefly heat in saucepan over low heat ). Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in milk 1 tablespoon at a time. Serve warm. Makes ¾ cup

Serves 4.

red velvet chocolate souffle


Basil Vegetable Soup

Basil Vegetable Soup

A quick and simple healthy soup that’s perfect for a weeknight meal. Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” any mix of vegetables could be used and the frozen green beans could be replaced by peas, broccoli, or any combination of mixed vegetables. I added tomato because I find it almost impossible to eat basil and Parmesan without tomato. I like to think of it as an Italian style ramen soup. Enjoy.


1 can (15.5oz) cannellini beans or white beans
3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 small zucchinis, halved and sliced
1 package (10 oz) frozen green beans
2 quarts vegetable broth or chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry vermicelli (rice noodles)
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil
1 large tomato, diced
grated Parmesan cheese


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add a little of the liquid from the can of beans. Add sliced carrots and zucchini, saute for 1 minute. Add beans, garlic, frozen beans, tomato, salt, and pepper. Saute one minute more. Add broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender. Check seasoning and correct if necessary. Add vermicelli and simmer until just barely tender.

While soup is cooking, chop basil finely. When vermicelli is tender, remove soup from heat and add basil.

Serve with grated Parmesan and chopped basil.

Serves 8-10.


Bavarian Apple Pancake

Apple Pancake Slice

Another lovely unpublished recipe from the archives of Paula Peck. Cinnamon, sugar, and apples – what’s not to like? This is a very simple recipe that reminds me more of an apple pie than a pancake. After deciphering the faded typewriter version with it’s hand written edits, I noticed that the recipe directions completely left out 3 of the ingredients listed. I kept re-reading the recipe as if these ingredients were hidden somewhere amongst the four sentences of instruction. Thanks to it’s simplicity, I didn’t need to think twice about where to add them but I was intrigued by the idea that the recipe was so raw that I needed to add more than just the finishing touches. In addition to mixing in the missing ingredients with the remaining dry ingredients, I increased the sugar to 1 tablespoon. The resulting puffed pancake has just enough sweetness to balance the tart apples but can still be eaten with syrup or fresh fruit.

I’m not sure what makes it Bavarian, maybe because it’s baked? Or maybe it’s as bavarian as French fries are French. Either way, this applicious pancake is a sweet way to start or end your day.

3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tart apples (granny smith)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (see note)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Beat eggs. Add flour, sugar, and salt, beating in well until no lumps remain. Beat in milk.
Peel apples, cut in half, and remove cores. Cut in slices 1/8 inch thick.

Melt butter in heavy 9″ oven proof skillet. Arrange apples and sprinkle with lemon zest. Allow apples to cook in butter 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour in prepared batter.

Bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake another 15 minutes until pancake is puffed and brown.

Serve with cinnamon sugar, melted butter, maple syrup, or fresh fruit.

Makes one large 9″ pancake (serves about 6).

Note: Cinnamon Sugar can be made by simply combining 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.


Pizza Pennies

Pizza Pennies

I made these bite size cuties in honor of the Super Bowl. The crunchy, chewy, garlicky game day or party food seemed to disappear before they could make it off the baking sheet.  I surprisingly found this recipe in the hors d’oeurves section of “The Art of Fine Baking.” The dough is a Cuban bread recipe that my grandmother describes as “a crusty, delicious water bread. It was made popular by James Beard in his cooking classes, where students particularly enjoy making it because it is so quickly and easily learned.” It’s a versatile dough that can be used for rolls, garlic knots, or my new favorite concoction, “pizza bread.”

The toppings of these little pizza pennies are really up to you. The original recipe just used pepperoni, onion, garlic, and olive oil. I think that tomato, mozzarella, and basil make a nice addition as would Parmesan, olives, green pepper, or any traditional pizza toppings. Mixing the toppings together before piling them onto the pennies will save time but if you want to customize each one than the traditional one topping at a time approach will have to do (though a bit tedious…). Either way, these are fun not fussy, and almost too easy to eat so make sure your game plan includes making enough for everyone.


1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 Cuban Bread dough
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Suggested Toppings: 3-4 cloves garlic minced, 60-70 thin slices sausage (pepperoni, salami, or freshly cooked Italian sausage), 1/2 an onion chopped, 1 medium tomato chopped, 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella, fresh basil chiffonade, dried oregano

Sprinkle baking sheets with cornmeal. After bread dough has risen once, roll it out 1/8 of an inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut rounds 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Place on baking sheets. Dab or brush each round lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with toppings.

Place in cold oven. Set temperature to 425 degrees. Bake about 15 minutes or until pennies are puffed and golden. Serve warm.

Makes about 6 dozen.


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