Epicureans of Ottawa – Marco

Epicureans of Ottawa – Marco

Meet Marco, the epicurean of this memoir; a Lebanese and recent Canadian citizen, family man and food lover. An automotive service manager by day and home-chef by night, he never ceases to surprise his family with great meals filled with love and memories.

When we asked Marco about getting featured on the blog, he got excited and couldn’t decide on a plate. Not sure if it was going to be his lamb couscous or his veal bone broth, he finally settled on seafood;

“It takes me back to when we were spending a year of our life with my parents in Cyprus.”

He had decided, with Roe as his sous-chef for the day, to make his dad’s deep fried calamari rings with a sweet & chilli dipping sauce and a zesty shrimp salad to give us a taste of his Cypriot memories!

Living by the Mediterranean Sea meant days spent swimming and afternoons eating fresh seafood.

In Cyprus, his dad used to prepare that calamari dish once a week and Marco got “hooked up on it”.
And we can imagine why!! Fresh ringlets of calamari tossed in flour and deep fried until golden & crispy, drizzled with a sweet and chilli sauce? Yes please! A perfect and quick meal after a long day at the beach; “We used to come from the beach hungry and within 20 minutes we have a meal.”

As we stood in the kitchen, Marco’s hands covered in flour tossing the calamari in the sizzling oil, he reminisced about the time his dad made his signature shrimp salad. (FYI Mediterranean people love to host lavish dinner parties!) That night, friends and family gathered for dinner while Marco’s dad prepared some of his favorite dishes. Marco said (with his subtle Anglo-Lebanese accent) as he blanches the shrimps,

“he gave us the first portion and everybody let go what they had been eating and just jumped on that plate.”

After some chopping, tossing and seasoning, Marco yelled “It’s Calamari time!” and sure enough everybody let go of their phones and jumped on the spread that Marco and Roe had laid down on the dinner table; Dinner was served a la Mediterranean.

For a taste of Marco’s Seafood memories follow the recipes below.

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

  • 4 Thai Chillies
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Before you start deep frying your calamari, throw in the chilli peppers & garlic into the oil for a good 2 minutes. Scoop up and add them to the rest of your ingredients in a blender. Blend the mix until it thickens and gets a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy as a dipping sauce or drizzled on top of your deep fried calamari.

Deep Fried Calamari

  • 250 g Fresh Calamari (cut into rings)
  • 1 ½ cup Flour
  • 3 cups vegetable oil (for frying)

Toss your Calamari rings into the flour and coat them entirely. Dust of excess flour and toss them into the hot oil. Wait until golden brown (2 minutes). Scoop up your beautiful crispy calamari rings using a slotted ladle or a spider. Serve with the sweet chilli dipping sauce or a nice and tangy tartar sauce paired with a citrus-y beer, it can almost teleport you to a hot summer day by the sea!

Zesty Shrimp Salad

  • 500 g Tiger Shrimp (de-shelled)
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 tbsp Lime/lemon zest
  • 5 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Make sure your shrimps are de-shelled and de-veined before you start this salad! Now that your shrimp is nice and clean, toss it in some boiling water for a minute (You want the shrimp to curl and become opaque but you don’t want to over cook it!) Once it’s cooked, remove it from the water, strain and toss into the bowl with the lemon juice, zest, parsley, salt & pepper. Give it a good mix and enjoy! This recipe is quick, easy and perfect for potlucks!

Want to hear this story from Marco himself? Click on the player below and enjoy the journey!

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