Go with me on this one. We were in Mexico, staying at one of those all-inclusive resorts where food is a constant everywhere you turn. The problem was, it wasn’t particularly good food. I got the impression that the hoteliers were trying to conform to their preconceptions of the American palate.
There were literally stations set up around the property that grilled hamburgers and hot dogs all day long. Pizza? You bet. Soft-serve ice cream? Yep. Here we were — in Mexico and our dining choices resembled the menu at an Applebees. We went off property to look for something authentic.
To me, the fun of traveling is experiencing different cultures, seeing new things and tasting diverse dishes. Why leave home if the food choices are only as exotic as a night out at Chili’s?
I wanted something legit. Something noteworthy. Something that would spring to the forefront of my memory any time Scott mentioned, “that trip to Mexico.”
On a bustling Gulf-side street a few miles from the hotel, we found a little hole in the wall with a “specials” menu scrawled on a chalkboard and very little fanfare. Unlike the other shops and restaurants that were clearly catering to American tourists – with libations served in fish bowls and tacky souvenirs, this place was decidedly understated.
We stepped inside and ordered a drink. Surprisingly, it didn’t come in an oversized souvenir cup, but rather in a glass with fresh lime and mint and a rather serious jolt of tequila. Encouraged, we scanned the menu. There was seafood — lots of it. Hand-made tortillas. Molé. My stomach rumbled.
We started with a crispy tostada, laden with a vibrant salad of spiny lobster, red bell pepper, jalapeno, creamy avocado and fresh citrus. We were hooked. It was bright, fresh and utterly delicious — and when I think about that trip, it’s the dish that I remember. Of course, I wanted to make it at home…
In my version, I didn’t use tostadas because I wanted a crunchy one-handed delivery method from plate to mouth. Bruschetta seemed like a good fit, though you could also try it with crispy tortilla chips.
I used calamari instead of lobster (it’s not lobster season here yet. Sigh, not ’til August.), but if you’re squeamish about squid, you could easily substitute shrimp instead. It goes without saying that you need to wash this down with an icy margarita. Olé!
By the way, I’d love to hear about your favorite dishes from far-off vacation flings — it makes the wait until our next one a little easier to bear.
A fresh blend of citrus, spice, herbs and grilled calamari tops garlic rubbed toasts. A great appetizer or snack with cocktails!
- 1 lb fresh squid tubes tentacles too if they're available, cleaned - see link below
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 jalapeño pepper stemmed and seeded, minced
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion minced
- 1/2 red bell pepper diced
- 1 grapefruit supremed* and diced
- 1 avocado diced - Dice avocado at the last minute so it doesn't oxidize
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 loaf rustic italian or french bread or other varieties
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 whole clove garlic skin removed
In a small bowl, combine garlic, lemon zest and juice, black pepper and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Add squid and toss to combine. Set in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to marinate.
In a medium bowl, combine jalapeño, cilantro, red onion, bell pepper, grapefruit, avocado, lime juice and olive oil. Set aside.
Cut bread crosswise into 1" wide slices. Brush both sides of bread lightly with olive oil. Set aside.
Heat grill to a medium heat - about 375 degrees. Grill bread for 1-2 minutes on each side, until toasted and lightly browned. Transfer to a cutting board.
Gently rub toasts on one side with garlic. Discard any remaining garlic.
Place whole squid tubes and tentacles (if you have them) on the grill for about 1-2 minutes per side, turning them once. (Squid will immediately shrink up.) Transfer squid to a cutting board.
Slice the squid tubes crosswise into 1/4" rings.
Add squid to the salad and toss to combine.
Arrange bread on a platter and top each slice with a large spoonful of the calamari mixture. Serve immediately.
More Seafood Appetizers:
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