It's amazing how different traditional Italian food is from what most Americans grew up to believe it to be. The Sunday sauces and everything parmigiana that we grew up with are a far stretch from what you find throughout the majority of Italy. From north to south, the cuisine of Italia changes just as much as its geography, traditions and wines.

However, for the most part, one thing remains the same throughout Italy: the cuisine is based on simple recipes made great through the quality of the ingredients and the deft, passionate hand of the person who is making the dish. Calamari in Zimino is a perfect example of this.Calamari in Zimino is seafood stew made from a short-list of ingredients and prepared so simply that you'll almost feel like you're cheating. However, sourcing the best ingredients will make the difference between making this good and making it great. The most important part of this dish is the calamari itself, which needs to be as fresh as possible because it's the flavor of the squid that makes this dish utterly amazing. Framing the flavor of the squid is the Swiss chard, which lends a sweet butteriness, and the onions, tomatoes and celery, which literally dissolve in the cooking process and become the broth of this stew. Can you tell I'm in love? It's because of preparations as flavorful, yet simple as this, that I became so enamored with Italian cuisine.

This could be an easy appetizer, for a light summer treat or a cold winter night. I would also suggest serving it with slices of toasted baguette brushed with a hint of olive oil, because as you'll quickly come to realize, the broth is delectable and each of your guests will want to make sure that it has been completely sopped up.

As for a wine pairing, a Greco di Tufo was my choice. D'Antiche Terre, 2007 Greco di Tufo, from the region of Campania, was a perfect pairing for the Calamari in Zimino, as the nose showed ripe tropical fruit mixed with a Mediterranean twist of olive and sea air. The palate was slightly sweet with a medium body and zesty acidity, giving flavors of stone, apricot and minerals, which finished fresh. If I was pressed for another perfect pairing, I could easily imagine a Verdicchio having similar results.

See page 2 for the recipe.

Meet Chef Eric Guido
After working in the New York City restaurant scene, Eric Guido branched out, organizing private dining and tasting events centered around Italian cuisine and wine. Here he began to incorporate food photography and recipe development.  His continuing work can be seen at www.theviptable.net. Eric’s passion for food and wine is fueled by the togetherness and satisfaction found at the table.



Calamari in Zimino

Serves 4

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped fine (or 12 oz of canned San Marzano tomatoes without juice)
2 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, fine dice
1 celery stalk, fibrous portion peeled and cut into a fine dice
salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 ½ lbs Swiss chard, washed and sliced into 1-inch stripes
1 lb squid, cleaned and sliced into ½-inch rings
1 tbls parsley, minced for garnish

Here's a simple trick I use to peel tomatoes. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a bowl with ice water. With a sharp knife, slice an "X" into the bottom of the tomato. (Be careful not to cut deep into the tomato; just pierce the skin). Drop the tomato into the boiling water for 45 seconds. Immediately remove from the boiling water and place it into the ice bath for another two minutes. When you pull the tomato from the ice bath, the skin should literally peel right off. For this recipe, you should now slice the tomato and remove the seeds. Once removed, cut the tomato into a fine dice.

Pour the olive oil into a large pan over medium heat and bring up to cooking temperature. Add the onions and celery with a generous pinch of salt and allow to sweat, in the pan, for 5 minutes. Add the tomato, Swiss chard, another pinch of salt and cracked fresh pepper. Cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes and return to the pot to stir, making sure to mix all ingredients together well. Cover the pot again and allow to cook for another 25 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium and add the squid. Allow to cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper if necessary.

Plate onto warmed plates by spooning a mound of the stew in the center of the plate with a generous amount of broth around it. Sprinkle with parsley, clean the rims of the plates and serve.

Meet Chef Eric Guido
After working in the New York City restaurant scene, Eric Guido branched out, organizing private dining and tasting events centered around Italian cuisine and wine. Here he began to incorporate food photography and recipe development.  His continuing work can be seen at www.theviptable.net. Eric’s passion for food and wine is fueled by the togetherness and satisfaction found at the table.