Soused Spinach with Walnut-Lemon Puree and Sauté of Calamari

Soused Spinach with Walnut-Lemon Puree and Sauté of Calamari

The presentation and flavors will impress your dinner guests!

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch spinach, washed (leave the stems attached to the leaves)

For the walnut lemon puree:

  • 1 1/2 cups California walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon, more or less, hot chili sauce (available in the Asian foods section of most supermarkets), or hot pepper sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons water, if necessary

For the calamari:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces cleaned calamari, including tubes and tentacles, with tubes sliced into 1/2-inch rings
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon, more or less, hot chili sauce or hot pepper sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped California walnuts, toasted

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil, add the spinach and blanch for a few seconds, just until wilted. Alternately, put the spinach in a large bowl, with just the water clinging to the leaves, then cover and microwave on high for 2 – 3 minutes, just until wilted. Drain the spinach well and refresh it in cold water. Drain again, pressing gently to remove excess water. Remove the stems from the leaves and set aside. Tear off a good-sized sheet of plastic wrap and place it on your work surface, its length stretching in front of you. Stack the spinach, alternating stems and leaves, to form a log-like bundle about 8 inches long on the bottom edge of the plastic wrap. Roll the plastic wrap up, tightly like a carpet, to snugly enclose the spinach. Squeeze the wrapped log gently, so excess water drips from the ends, and then seal the ends.* Set aside.
  2. To prepare the walnut lemon puree, put the walnuts in a food processor with the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil. Process until smooth and blended, then season to taste with chili sauce, salt and pepper. If the puree is too thick to spread evenly, thin it with some water. Scrape into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  3. When you are ready to serve, divide the walnut puree among 4 plates, spreading it evenly. Unwrap the spinach log and with a sharp knife cut it into 8 slices, about 12/-inch thick. Place two slices near the center of each plate; if the slices break apart, simply push them back together.
  4. To cook the calamari, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat. Add the calamari and sauté quickly for 2 minutes, stirring and tossing almost constantly. Add the garlic, lemon zest and chili sauce, then stir and toss for 1 – 2 minutes longer, just until calamari is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper taste, then divide among the prepared plates and garnish with walnuts.

*If you don't want to roll the spinach, Chef Higgins suggests using a cappuccino cup as a mold.