Christmas is here. Tired of getting stuck in lines? Tired of being stressed out because you still have not done your shopping? Then do what I do to relieve some stress and start cooking! Part two of this “Holiday Helpings” edition of Get Off the Couch will follow me cooking an Italian dish and do some deserts. This week my friend Laura Uttley has decided to throw caution to the wind and be my sous chef.
For any Italian out there, you probably have heard of the “Seven Fishes” tradition on Christmas, where (yes, you guessed it) seven different types of fish are cooked. I am going to try a calamari marinara in celebration of this great tradition. Also for a desert, who can say no to sugar cookies?
1:25 - Stop by Dave's Marketplace to get some squid. Never cooked squid before and calamari is one of my favorite dishes, so I might as well try it out.
1:40 - Pull into Walmart for some vanilla frosting and jimmies. Unfortunately, they do not have any jimmies, so I grab some crushed 'Andes Mints' off the shelf. More festive anyway.
1:53 - Laura shoots me a text to say she's running late. No matter, I have a can of vanilla frosting to keep myself entertained. I've been on a three year withdrawal from this tub of deliciousness. This girl I dated in college used to hide it on me because I would always sneak in her refrigerator and eat it.
2:15 - Laura arrives and I have already doubled my daily intake of sugar as stated by the nutrition fact label on the frosting container. I follow her lead on the cookies. She's a baking master. (She made her own cookie dough which tastes awesome.)
2:22 - The first rack of candy cane, snowflake, and Christmas tree shaped cookies are in the oven.
2:32 - Laura pops in the second rack, as I pull out the first. My baking “novice-ness” is shown when Laura has to remind me that the cookies need to cool down before we put the icing on.
2:40 - As the cookies cool, we start the prep work on the calamari. I've got Laura chopping up onions while I start to slice the calamari into small rings.
2:45 - In a medium sauce pan, I throw the chopped onions, a couple table spoons of minced garlic (I love garlic), and sauté them in olive oil.
2:47 - Once the onion and garlic mix is browned, I toss in the calamari rings and pour some more olive oil on them.
2:50 - It does not take long to cook calamari, so I lower the heat to simmer and pour in a can of peeled tomatoes. Then I add some garlic powder and basil leaves. Note to self: do not try to crush the peeled tomatoes with a wooden spoon as tomato juice will splatter everywhere. Thankfully Laura's nice white shirt was not hit.
3:00 - Now that the calamari marinara is cooking, time to turn back to the cookies.
3:10 - Two cookies in and it is quite apparent that Laura is much better at professionally spreading the frosting then I am. My cookies look like a first grader who is trying to color within the lines for the first time. Oh well, I'll just eat the ones that don't look good.
3:20 - I just ate four cookies and I do not feel so good.
3:40 - Time to taste test the calamari, the rings are not rubbery. I stir them some more and take off the cover for the last half hour.
4:06 - The calamari marinara is all done. Laura and I grab some Italian bread and dig in.
The can make for a good side dish for your Christmas feast if you grab some chunks of Italian bread to eat it with as Laura and I did. However, this can be easily made into a dish for the main course if you add some pasta to it. Some tips for you:
- Do not crush peeled tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Use a knife
- Make your own cookie dough, as the cookies will taste better and it’s more fun
- Do not skimp on frosting. You can never have too much.
I hope these past two columns have provided some inspiration for you to cook your own holiday feast! I wish all of you a Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas!!