This summer Maldonado Bistro decided to go retro and bring back a dish which used to be the menu a few years ago. This was a dish inspired by a dinner I once had in Valletta. It was a while back but I believe the name of the place was Capistrano.
As a side to our main courses they served grilled vegetables with a sweet yet sour taste. For some reason I fell in love with the contrast that I had to ask the waiter how the vegetables were prepared. He immediately smiled back and told me that the vegetables where dressed in with agrodolce.
Agrodolce is Italian for sweet-and-sour. The concept is to add both acidity and sweetness to a dish. For example a simple agrodolce sauce can be a basil pesto with a splash of white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. The key is to ‘keep balance within the force’. You don’t want the dressing to be too sour (too much acid) but not too sweet (too much sugars).
The key is to ‘keep balance within the force’.
For example what makes a great Sicilian caponata? Char-grilling the vegetables is one important task. But also using a good white wine vinegar and balancing the acidity with honey or sugar. Even in German I have discovered this method in a basic potato salad. They add both white wine vinegar and sugar.
The recipe below is a great example how to enjoy agrodolce with grilled seafood. You have the smokiness of the grilled peppers, the anise flavour coming from the grilled fennel, brine originating from the capers, a herbal bouquet thanks to the mint and basil, and then bring it all together with touch of wine and honey.
Grilled calamari is a very popular dish in Malta. People love them and is probably why you find calamari on restaurant menus throughout Malta and Gozo. Local fishermen enjoy a small season for the catch of calamari in September. Then we depend on imports from Morocco and Asia to sustain local demand throughout the year.
The Governor’s Calamari
- Heavy-bottom pan
- Sharp Knife and Chopping Board
- Mixing Bowl
- Mandoline Slicer
- 2 Whole Calamari (cleaned)
- 4 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 Wedge Marinated Lemon (finely chopped)
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Red Pepper (cut in long strips)
- 1 bulb Fennel
- 50 ml White Wine
- 1 Tbsp Capers
- 1 sprig Mint (finely chopped)
- 1 handful Basil (finely chopped)
- 2 Tbsp Honey
- Salt (to season)
- Fresh Ground Pepper (to season)
- Your fishmonger should have cleaned your calamari from the ink sack and internal organs. Still you might need to peel off the thin skin of the calamari. Chop into rings and marinate with olive oil, marinated lemon and garlic for around 10 minutes.
- Heat up your pan to high heat. Once you see the pan smoking immediately tip the marinated calamari with all its contents into the pan. This will help char the calamari to give it black grill marks on the edges. Toss contents of pan and leave for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the red peppers and fennel, toss and continue grilling on high heat for another 5 minutes to cook through the vegetables.
- Deglaze the pan with white wine and add the capers. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes until the pan liquids have reduced by half.
- Take off the heat and fold in the chopped mint and basil. Once combined stir in the honey. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately