Food News

Part 3: John Tesar Grills Up
A Cool Calamari Treat

In the third part of our look at John Tesar of Dallas Restaurant Group, the chef goes into the kitchen at Dallas Fish Market to make a few preparations for us. With temperatures still blasting past the century mark, Tesar chooses some cooling dishes to take advantage of seasonal produce and one of the most sustainable seafood ingredients available. Cooking with a five-star chef has its advantages. You eat well, and the chef makes everything seem simple and easy to re-create. This recipe for grilled calamari on the next page has a few extra steps, but the finished product is well worthwhile.

Grilled Calamari on Pickled Watermelon (Serves 4)


  • 1 1/2 pounds cleaned squid (about 3 pounds whole) tentacles separated from the bodies, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 hot-house cucumber peeled and shaped into small rounds with a small melon baller
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, peeled (peel by scoring them and dropping them in boiling water for 10 second and then shock them in an ice bath. Pat them dry and then shape in to small round balls with a melon baler)
  • 1 large slice of seedless watermelon also shaped in to small balls with a melon baller
  • Mint oil (see recipe below)
  • 4 fresh mint leaves
  • 4 cilantro leaves
  • One tsp Asian chili oil (available at your local Asian market or Central Market)
  • Tom Spicer's micro green mix
  • A dressing made from two parts extra virgin olive oil, and one part seasoned rice wine vinegar seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. (Pour into a clean squeeze bottle and shake before using.)

Step 1: Cut the squid bodies along the sides to open flat. With a thin sharp knife, lightly score the insides, being careful not to cut through all the way. In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the squid bodies and tentacles, toss to coat and marinate for 5 to 10 minutes

Step 2: Preheat the grill to high heat. When heated, grill the squid for 30 to 45 seconds per side. You can cook the tentacles a little longer to get a nice char or grill flavor.

Step 3: Once squid is grilled, place it on a paper towel and cut the bodies into 1-inch strips. The squid bodies will roll up as they are grilled so you just cut the rolled squid into 1-inch bands and arrange them in chilled bowls along with pickled rounds (one per portion) and balls of watermelon, cucumber and heirloom tomato.

Step 4: Dress the "salad " with the dressing, mint oil and a little chili oil, top off with a chiffonade of the mint and cilantro (thin slices of the leaves as opposed to chopping them) then garnish with the micro greens and serve.

Mint Oil

  • 1/4 cup coarse salt
  • 4 cups loosely packed mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup grape-seed or canola oil

Prepare an ice water bath; set aside. Bring 4 cups water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add mint leaves and cook 10 to 15 seconds. Drain and immediately transfer to ice-water bath to cool. Drain and squeeze dry. Save ice bath

Place the mint leaves in the jar of a blender with enough oil to cover and blend for two minnutes, then pour oil and mint mixture into a small sauce pan and cook over medium flame till oil turns bright green and the solids start to separate. Pour into a metal container and chill in the ice bath. Once cooled, strain mint oil through cheesecloth and discard solids. Oil can be kept in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to five days.

Pickled Watermelon Rounds Slice watermelon into a 2-inch thick round and then with a small ring mold cutter cut out rounds (2-by-2 inches)

Pickling liquid

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Serrano chilies cleaned and seeded

Place all ingredients in a sauce pot and bring to a boil, then let simmer till reduced by one third, remove mixture from the heat and let cool till warm then strain over watermelon rounds making sure to cover rounds, any extra liquid can be reserved for use at a later date. Cover melon rounds and refrigerate for 3 or 4 hours or overnight. They will be good for two to three days.

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Steven Doyle

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