Photo: Thomas J. Story
Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb restaurant in San Francisco is known for adventurous dishes like this one, a meet-up of mild grilled calamari (squid), fresh produce, and exciting seasonings. He grills the calamari over almond wood plus regular charcoal briquets; for the home cook, he recommends easy-to-find mesquite hardwood charcoal. To make the dish as fiery as Cosentino likes it, use 2 tbsp. black pepper and 2 tsp. Aleppo pepper, and don't seed the serrano chile.
Serves 4 as a main dish
1. Cut melon in half, cut off peel, and cut fruit into 1 1/2-in. squares, removing seeds, to make 1 qt. Put in a large bowl. Cut heirloom tomatoes into wedges and thick slices. Cut cherry and teardrop tomatoes in half and add all tomatoes to melon. Set aside.
2. Set lime zest aside. In a bowl, combine lime juice, 2 tbsp. oil, the fish sauce, coarsely ground black pepper, and 1/2 to 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper; set dressing aside.
3. Clean calamari (even tubes sold as cleaned often need a little attention). First, cut off the pointy tips. Slide a slim knife into each tube. Scrape out squishy bits and the cellophane-like backbone. Rinse well; pat dry.
4. In a small bowl, gently toss tubes and tentacles with lime zest; remaining 1 tbsp. oil, the finely ground black pepper, and 1/2 to 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper; and the salt. Set aside.
5. For charcoal, ignite a very full chimney of mesquite hardwood charcoal on firegrate of a charcoal grill. Dump onto firegrate and add half again as much fresh hardwood charcoal; spread level. Set cooking grate in place. Heat 5 minutes with grill uncovered. For gas, heat a gas grill to high (at least 550°).
6. Meanwhile, put herbs and chile in a small bowl and set aside. Drizzle tomato mixture with dressing and combine gently; set aside.
7. Working quickly and using long tongs, grill calamari tubes (covered if using gas), turning once, until grill marks appear and calamari is opaque, 2 to 3 minutes total. Transfer to a clean bowl. With tongs, drop tentacles onto grate in several clumps. Grill just to firm up, 15 to 20 seconds; then spread out and cook, turning once, until centers are opaque and tips are browned, 3 to 4 minutes total. Add to bowl with tubes.
8. Gently toss calamari, herbs, and chile with tomato mixture. Arrange on a large platter.
*Find fruity Aleppo pepper at well-stocked grocery stores and penzeys.com. Find Thai basil at Asian markets and farmers' markets.