Calamari with Meyer Lemon Aioli

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4

Grilled calamari makes a delicious addition to a salad, selection of antipasti or mixed seafood grill. For even cooking, weigh the calamari down with a well-cleaned preheated cast-iron pan or a brick wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil.


For the Meyer lemon aioli: 

  • 1/4 cup canola oil 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil  
  • 3 egg yolks 
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard 
  • 3 garlic cloves 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper 
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. fresh Meyer lemon juice  
  • 2 lb. small calamari, tentacles and bodies, thawed if frozen  
  • 2 lemons 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more as needed 
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes 
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt 
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper  
  • Hot-pepper sauce, to taste 
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley  


To make the aioli, pour the canola oil and olive oil into a measuring cup with a spout. In a blender or food processor, combine the egg yolks, mustard, garlic, salt and white pepper. Pulse several times until the garlic is pulverized. With the motor running, add the oils in a slow, steady stream. Stir in 3 Tbs. of the lemon juice. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. lemon juice if needed to thin the aioli; it should be the consistency of mayonnaise. Spoon into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Place the calamari in a colander, rinse under cold running water and pat dry. Pull the tentacles off the bodies. Cut any large tentacles in half and any bodies longer than 4 inches into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces. Cut away the small beaks from the tentacles; discard the beaks. Drain the calamari in the colander.

Using a microplane grater, grate the zest from 1 of the lemons; halve and juice the other lemon.

In a bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, 1/4 cup of the lemon juice, the 1/2 cup olive oil, the vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper and hot-pepper sauce. Add the calamari and stir to coat.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Preheat a large cast-iron pan over the hottest part of the fire. Brush the bottom of the pan and the grill grate with oil.

Arrange the calamari on the grill directly over high heat. Place the preheated pan on top of the calamari to flatten them. Grill, turning once and brushing with any remaining olive oil mixture, until the calamari are opaque and nicely charred, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Transfer the calamari to a cutting board and cut into bite-size rings and pieces while still hot off the grill. Mound on a platter and garnish with the parsley. Drizzle the Meyer lemon aioli on top or serve it on the side as a dipping sauce. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Note: This recipe contains eggs that are not cooked. They run a risk of being infected with salmonella or other bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning. This risk is of most concern to small children, older people, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system. If you have health and safety concerns, do not consume raw or partially cooked eggs; seek out a pasteurized egg product to replace them.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma On the Grill, by Willie Cooper (Oxmoor House, 2009).

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