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Grilled Calamari with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, Baby Arugula and Grilled Lemon From Chef Freddy Sanchez, The Happ Inn, Northfield

For Sun-dried Tomato Pesto:

1 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup fresh basil

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

Pinch salt and pepper

Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and pureé into a coarse consistency. Place in small bowl, and set aside.

Ingredients for rest of the dish:

2 pounds medium squid, tubes and tentacles, cleaned

3 cups baby arugula, loosely packed

2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole

2 lemons, halved

Prepare the calamari and vegetables:

Use your favorite seafood marinade. Place cleaned calamari in a medium size bowl, add the marinade, and lightly toss calamari until covered.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Heat up the grill. Sanchez likes his grill smoking hot. Grill calamari meat for about 2 minutes on each side. Grill the tomatoes and lemon halves along with the calamari.

Construct the dish:

Arrange the grilled vegetables around a plate of fresh arugula. Top with grilled calamari. Drizzle with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto.

After last winter, guys everywhere are more attached to their outdoor grills than ever. So as Father’s Day, one of the biggest grilling days of the year approaches, we asked a few favorite chefs: What’s so great about grilling?

“Everything, really,” Rick Bayless said. “The drama of cooking over fire, the charred bits that are impossible to get any other way, the pleasure of cooking outside, the smoky flavors…I grew up in a barbecue restaurant, so I guess it’s just in my blood…”

At home, Bayless cooks on a Kalamazoo grill that’s both gas and charcoal. “It has a griddle for tortillas, etc., and of course, I use it as a smoker as well. But in the winter, I often grill in my fireplace (seriously),” he confided.

Lately, asparagus is a regular on the Bayless home grill — outside. “Right now, I love to grill asparagus; it cooks quickly, and when the tops get a little charred and crispy, there’s nothing like it.”

“I love the smells,” said Pinstripes Culinary Director Cesar Gutierrez. “It’s relaxing. And with all honesty, I don’t feel like I have to clean the kitchen. When you’re out there, you’re not worried about getting grease on the counter.”

At home in Elmhurst, Gutierrez has “the biggest grill you can buy from Weber.” He special-ordered the grill, which is 6-feet wide and features charcoal, gas and smoker options. “When I bought it, people made fun of me,” he joked.

They’re not laughing anymore: Gutierrez is always grilling something — skirt steaks, or chicken or ribs or other barbecue meats.

When he makes ribs, Gutierrez treats them with seasoning that includes hickory liquid smoke. Smoke flavor is hotter than ever.

“I like to experiment with different smoke and herbs,” said Executive Chef Larry Donahue.

When he’s not at the helm of the kitchen at local Weber Grill restaurants, Donahue has four Weber grills to pick from at home. His favorite grilling food: wild Alaskan salmon.

At his new home in Deerfield, Freddy Sanchez of Northfield’s Happ Inn uses two grills. “I have to have gas and charcoal,” he explained.

He especially likes to grill calamari. Sanchez makes his Grilled Calamari and Sun-dried Tomato Pesto by grilling squid and arranging the cooked meat over a bed of fresh, bright green arugula. Then, he drizzles sun-dried tomato pesto (yes, made from scratch) and arranges grilled lemons and cherry tomatoes around the dish for a colorful, flavorful accent.

Cooking lemons, tomatoes and other acidic foods over hot coals intensifies their flavors. Sanchez likes cherry tomatoes for grilling because “they are sweet, and easier to grill because they are whole,” he said. “Of course, they have to be big enough that they don’t fall through the grates!”

The trickiest part of grilling calamari, Sanchez said, is ensuring the meat is thoroughly cooked, but not overcooked. “Make sure the grill is smoking hot before placing the calamari on the grill. Then, grill the meat for two minutes on each side. Years of experience always helps,” he added, with a laugh.

The grilled calamari salad is one that Sanchez made for years while he was a chef in Chicago at the recently shuttered Scoozi. He opened Taco Nano in Northfield 18 months ago, and he is also chef and partner of the Happ Inn with Carlos Nieto.

“Grilling is a chance to get some fresh air after working inside all day,” Nieto said.

Using infrared heat is a favorite technique. “You can char a steak a little nicer,” he said.

And, like Sanchez, Nieto enjoys grilling calamari. “It’s something very simple. You don’t even have to keep it on the grill too long. Flip it after about 2-3 minutes, and then let it rest a bit. Keep it warm on the grill to help seal in the juices.”

“Grilling reminds me of summer, even if it’s not summer,” said Mark Grosz, executive chef and owner of Oceanique in Evanston. “And it is easy and fast to prepare dinner.”

At home, Grosz grills steaks, brats, fish, vegetables — and calamari. “Cooking very hot calamari will develop a light brown char. The texture will firm up a bit,” he says. “Take it off the grill early, if you’re not sure if it’s done. Brush with extra virgin olive oil, which will stop the cooking and lubricate the seafood.”

Grilled Calamari with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, Baby Arugula and Grilled Lemon

From Chef Freddy Sanchez, The Happ Inn, Northfield

For Sun-dried Tomato Pesto:

1 ½ cups sun-dried tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic

¼ cup fresh basil

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

Pinch salt and pepper

Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and pureé into a coarse consistency. Place in small bowl, and set aside.

Ingredients for rest of the dish:

2 pounds medium squid, tubes and tentacles, cleaned

3 cups baby arugula, loosely packed

2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole

2 lemons, halved

Prepare the calamari:

Use your favorite seafood marinade. Place cleaned calamari in a medium size bowl, add the marinade, and lightly toss calamari until covered.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Heat up the grill. Sanchez likes his grill smoking hot. Grill calamari meat for about 2 minutes on each side. Grill the tomatoes and lemon halves along with the calamari.

Construct the dish:

Arrange the grilled vegetables around a plate of fresh arugula. Top with grilled calamari. Drizzle with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto.

Grilled Calamari with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, Baby Arugula and Grilled Lemon From Chef Freddy Sanchez, The Happ Inn, Northfield

For Sun-dried Tomato Pesto:

1 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup fresh basil

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

Pinch salt and pepper

Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and pureé into a coarse consistency. Place in small bowl, and set aside.

Ingredients for rest of the dish:

2 pounds medium squid, tubes and tentacles, cleaned

3 cups baby arugula, loosely packed

2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole

2 lemons, halved

Prepare the calamari and vegetables:

Use your favorite seafood marinade. Place cleaned calamari in a medium size bowl, add the marinade, and lightly toss calamari until covered.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Heat up the grill. Sanchez likes his grill smoking hot. Grill calamari meat for about 2 minutes on each side. Grill the tomatoes and lemon halves along with the calamari.

Construct the dish:

Arrange the grilled vegetables around a plate of fresh arugula. Top with grilled calamari. Drizzle with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto.

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