Cooking for myself is not a skill that comes easily. In my professional life I cook for others and take great joy in preparing delicious, well thought out meals. At home I am happy to prepare meals to be shared with Alex or other friends and family. But on the rare occasions when I’m on my own, cooking becomes an awesome task. Somehow the amount of effort that goes into preparing anything other than the simplest of dishes seems like entirely too much trouble. Even when I put some effort into creating a more elaborate meal for myself it almost always falls flat. I’m sure there are some deep-seated psychological reasons for this tendency to ruin my own supper, but the end result is that pasta with butter and cheese is the standard meal when I eat on my own.
Last week while Alex was away we received a gorgeous shipment of fish. I wrote about the way that I took great pleasure in cleaning the specimens and smoking some for future use. I kept aside some impeccably fresh calamari for myself. My thought was to grill it since we had some amazing grilled seafood at Demetris in Astoria while back east. I had a craving for curry so I briefly marinated the bodies in curry powder and olive oil.
There was some rhubarb in the walk-in that needed some love and I thought its bright flavors and crunchy acidity would make a nice contrast to the tender sweetness of the calamari. I cut it into a delicate rectangles and let it macerate with a pinch of sugar and salt. I had some green onions as well so they were finely sliced and added to the rhubarb for a bit of astringency and earthiness.
The tentacles have always fascinated me because they awaken such visceral reactions when they appear on a plate. People either love them or hate them and the members of the latter camp tend to be quite vocal in their prejudice. I believe that it is the look of the tentacles more than the flavor that provokes such virulent antipathy. When cooked whole they are awkward to eat because of their size and shape. With that in mind I separated the tentacles into individual members so that they would look less like distorted sea spiders. Then I briefly sautéed them over extremely high heat and then rolled them in chopped, toasted almonds to add some complexity and crunch.
The last element on the plate was some compressed melon. I thought that its sweet juicy flavors would be a nice addition to the dish. Besides, Alex had asked me to use it up while he was gone and eating it with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt seemed like cheating somehow.
I grilled the bodies and sliced one into rings, which I dressed with the rhubarb and green onions. I squeezed a judicious amount of fresh lemon juice over the remaining body and paired it with the marinated calamari, the warm almond dusted tentacles and slices of melon. The dish had all of the flavors and all of the elements but still it somehow fell flat. Each component was good on its own and perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I had someone to share it with. There would have been some distraction for my inner critic. Although some of the elements may reappear, such as the tentacles which were succulent and nutty, the dish as whole was definitely one destined for the bin.