Fried Calamari with Pico and Avocado Dressing Plus Pina Coladas

When Bean over at Without Adornment announced her theme for this month’s Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! carnival, I was completely on board. Tropical Vacation meal … oh, yeah. We had plenty of snow at the time and our Key West vacation seemed long ago. One of our favorite appetizers that often turns into a meal is Fried Calamari. We’ve eaten calamari all over in our travels from our favorite waterside restaurant “down the road”—Dockside—to much more exotic, tropical spots. Going gluten free meant giving that pleasure up. Oh, sure, I’ve heard of some restaurants that serve gluten-free calamari, but we just haven’t had the good fortune to find and visit one. So making calamari has been in the back of my mind for some time.

My goal has been to make calamari as good as what is served as that favorite local restaurant. And, it’s not just calamari. It’s delicious calamari served on a bed of shredded lettuce topped with a sweet pico de gallo and a special dressing. Here’s a photo of Dockside’s calamari.

I’ve mentioned that our grocery store is pretty basic. While I was happily surprised to find squid in the freezer case recently, I was less pleased to find out that it was a package of whole squid. Opening the package, the squid didn’t look too intimidating, but once I thawed them out, many soulful eyes stared back at me. Maybe I was having flashbacks to images of the giant squid in The Beast, starring William Petersen (before his rise to fame as Gil Grissom on C.S.I.). (Mr. GFE and Son had watched and recorded that movie and we’d watched it more than once.)  In the end, I just couldn’t deal with those squid. They plain “weirded” me out. However, I still wanted to make calamari.

So we made a trip into town to the upscale Wegmans and headed to their seafood counter. And, there they were … beautiful, headless squid bodies and tentacles. Not an eye in sight—thank goodness. The folks at the seafood counter were happy to slice the squid into rings for me while we chatted. The staff member who assisted me shared that her mom had been recently diagnosed with gluten intolerance. She added that she was also trying to eat gluten free, but she expressed frustration over the high cost of gluten free products. Of course, I shared my gfe approach. Seems like I was meant to go to that seafood counter.

Once home, it was easy to prepare the squid. I used the breading mix that I used recently for the chicken tenders and fried oysters. Sometimes if you find something that works with one application, it makes sense to try it with others. There is no need to reinvent the wheel all the time. I breaded the squid exactly the same way I had done the chicken tenders … with no egg wash. The result was very lightly breaded, melt-in-your-mouth calamari. I served them over romaine leaves cut into smaller pieces topped with pico de gallo (pico is easy to make; here’s one recipe I use) and a thick, creamy, and slightly tangy avocado dressing. It’s a great dish. But, truthfully, it’s different than our favorite calamari from Dockside. Not bad different—this calamari dish is really very good—but it is different. I will make the remaining calamari in two batches. For one I’ll use this breading, but also do the egg wash like I did for the fried oysters. I’ll also do a batch to test some gluten-free breading that I purchased a while ago. I’ll keep you updated on both.

Fried Calamari
(Click here for a printable version of this and the following recipes.)

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup gluten-free flour*
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
cooking oil (I used a mixture of grapeseed and olive oil)
2 lbs fresh, raw squid—rings and tentacles

Mix cornmeal, gluten-free flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl (or paper/ziploc bag for shaking).

Dredge squid through cornmeal breading (or shake in bag). Fry in hot oil (about an inch deep on medium-high, about 375 degrees if using an electric skillet). The calamari will only take a minute or two, at most. Flip pieces when brown on one side. Remove once browned on both sides. To prevent tough calamari, do not overcook.

*I can’t tolerate many of the healthier, gluten-free flours; e.g., sorghum, buckwheat. Therefore, my gluten-free flour mix is 3 parts Asian white rice flour and 2 parts cornstarch. I gently mix three one-lb bags of the Asian white rice flour and two one-lb boxes of cornstarch in a very large bowl and then store the mix in several airtight containers (like large glass jars). It’s a very economical mix that works well in most recipes. No refrigeration is needed. If you’re interested in a complete tutorial on gluten-free flours, please read Amy’s (Simpy Sugar & Gluten-Free) post here. As always, if you are not gluten free, you can substitute all-purpose (wheat) flour instead of gluten-free flour.

Thick and Creamy Avocado Dressing

one half of an avocado, mashed
2 – 3 tbsp of Greek yogurt (to taste)
one garlic clove (I used ½ tsp minced garlic)
2 – 3 tbsp olive oil (to taste and/or consistency)
1 tsp honey

Add all to blender and blend on high a minute or two until well blended. Dollop over salad mixture and calamari as desired.

Shirley’s Notes: This dressing has more of the thickness of mayonnaise or a spread versus a true dressing. If you want a true dressing consistency, you’ll want to add more liquid: olive oil, milk, lemon juice, water, etc.—your preference.

As Bean shared on her Tropical Pork Pineapple Kabobs post, a tropical vacation meal requires a tropical drink. My faves are margaritas and pina coladas. This time I went with a pina colada. This one is gluten free and dairy free, and uses no processed mixes either. I basically took the idea of a Southern Living recipe that I’d enjoyed years ago and just revised it to use whole food ingredients, including coconut milk. Easy and luscious!

Luscious Pina Coladas

1 cup coconut milk
1 cup pineapple juice
½ cup rum
4 tbsp sugar (or other sweetener)
1 banana
1/4 cup shredded coconut
8 or more ice cubes
additional shredded coconut, if desired

Blend coconut milk, pineapple juice, rum, sugar, banana, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, and ice cubes to desired consistency. Top with additional shredded coconut, if desired.

Inspired by Southern Living

Shirley’s Notes: I like to use a frozen banana (I always have frozen baking bananas on hand), which provides a nice, thick consistency—the luscious factor in this pina colada.

If you want to stay in the tropical vacation mindset a little longer, be sure to check back at Without Adornment for the complete roundup of recipes. Thinking sunshine, turquoise blue water, warm breezes, bare legs, and wonderful tropical fare … so nice. Special thanks to Bean for hosting this month as well as ongoing thanks to Naomi (Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried) for originating the always fun and helpful Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! carnival.

By the way, be sure to visit my Out and About page to find out who won the recent giveaway. And, we’re now into the final week before the Academy Awards presentation, more fondly known as the Oscars. Be sure to check out the complete roundup–either recipes inspired by Oscar nominees or others just right for throwing your own viewing celebration. They are definitely all award-winning caliber! My own contributions were Veronica’s Pumpkin Soup and the already mentioned Southern Fried Oysters. You can the listing of all the Gluten-Free Progressive Dinner Party recipes at our gracious hostess, Diane’s, blog events page at The. W.H.O.L.E. Gang.


Not just gf, but gfe!

Not just gf, but gfe!

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34 Responses to “Fried Calamari with Pico and Avocado Dressing Plus Pina Coladas”

  1. H.Peter on February 28th, 2010 12:10 pm

    Ah yes. Eyes on fish. How come we tolerate them on trout, shrimp and others, but not on more exotic creatures?

    Your dish looks simply divine. Chapeau madame.

    • Shirley on March 1st, 2010 10:45 am

      H.Peter–It’s so funny you should say that because as I was standing at the seafood counter, I was thinking the same thing. There was a humongous fish on its side with its huge eye staring up at me, and it didn’t phase me a bit. But, the eyes of those squid … that’s another thing entirely. Anyway, merci, monsieur. :-)


  2. Pam on February 28th, 2010 4:25 pm

    Shirley…girl….you are mentioning and showing all of these favorite things I like…that plate and pina’s….looks so delish! and Gil Grissom….NICE!


    • Shirley on March 1st, 2010 10:48 am

      Hey Pam!–Now I know your weak spots! Serve you a pina colada, mention Grissom, and then I can put anything on that particular plate, and you’ll think it’s divine. LOL This is a pretty divine meal without any outside influences though. ;-)



      • Pam on March 4th, 2010 1:34 pm

        ha ha ha!….love it!

        Your so cute!


  3. Emily on March 1st, 2010 4:49 am

    Oh man. How good does all of that look?! It makes me want to run away to the Caribbean. I love pina coladas.

    The calamari looks perfect. My-oh-my.

    • Shirley on March 1st, 2010 10:54 am

      Hi there Emily–So good to see you! I’m still tickled pink that you have been experimenting with gluten-free baking and having wonderful success. Those cookies recently were so pretty and delicious looking (and I’m sure they actually were delicious, too!). :-) And, now I just saw you are featuring vegan, gluten-free biscotti!! Awesome! Can’t wait to see more on your blog, Sugar Plum.

      As far as the Caribbean, let’s go right now … what do you think? I would so love to eat this meal while looking out at those fabulous blue waters and sipping a pina colada. Oh, rats, you can’t go right now? I did see you are getting ready to move … okay, at a later date then. ;-) Thanks so much for the nice words, dear!


  4. Alta on March 1st, 2010 9:44 am

    What a way to transport yourself to a tropical paradise! Sounds tasty – I’ve never thought to try calamari on my own. Looks so simple, now that you’ve done all the “hard” work! :)

    • Shirley on March 1st, 2010 10:57 am

      Hi Alta–Now that I know I can get fresh calamari all cleaned and beautiful, I can’t wait to start making it on a regular basis! Son is very excited and can’t wait to try it next time he’s home for the weekend. (This time he suddenly had a date and left before I cooked the calamari. LOL) Using this recipe to make calamari really is simple, and so tender and delicious as well. I’m going to keep perfecting the recipe though …

      Thanks so much!


  5. Heather @CeliacFamily on March 1st, 2010 8:08 pm

    Wow! That fried calamari looks wonderful. I don’t know if I could get anyone else in my house to eat it, but I just might have to make it for myself. What a yummy treat.

    • Shirley on March 1st, 2010 10:08 pm

      Hi Heather–Thanks so much! :-) I made two more variations this evening. One was as good as this previous version just a little different and the last one was not to my liking. Mr. GFE liked both though. He says he doesn’t mind this current taste testing gig at all! ;-) I think we’ll make calamari an occasional treat in our house again. I can’t wait to make calamari for Son when he is home next. :-)


  6. Jenn on March 2nd, 2010 2:18 am

    I’ve never made my own fried calamari before, and that dressing sounds fabulous! What an awesome appetizer, I am sure this would be a crowd pleaser! And that piña colada….yum!!

    • Shirley on March 3rd, 2010 12:55 am

      Thanks so much, Jenn! I do want to make this for my support group some time, as well as Son. They will all love it. :-) I did have to thin the dressing with a little milk the next day for eating with the other versions … then I drizzled it all over the mixture. We stood at the counter and ate. So good. Finally, I need to get some more pineapple juice just so I’ll have all the ingredients to make those pina coladas. ;-)


  7. Kay Guest on March 2nd, 2010 11:12 am

    Hey Shirley,
    When you were typing this recipe, did you possibly pause for a moment before you typed “raw squid- rings and tentacles”? I can tell you that, for me, just TYPING it makes me squeamish. Somehow, squid seems something to fish with, rather than to eat. (Fishing in Destin once, my Dad walked over to me on the fishing boat, took his glasses off, laid one of the squid down with the dangling eyeballs and put his glasses over them, and said, “I can see! I can see”! I laughed so hard I thought I would fall off the boat.) Hope you don’t mind my fishing story with you.
    Tell you what though, if you served this dish to me, I bet I would eat EVERY bite. ;-) Cheers! Kay

    • Shirley on March 3rd, 2010 10:10 am

      LOL, Kay. Actually it does sound a bit funny (as in odd funny), doesn’t it? But, the tentacles are the tastiest part actually. I prefer mine breaded and cooked in this manner, although they certainly are used in many other dishes with no breading at all. We have used squid for bay fishing, too. That’s a funny memory re: your dad, fishing, and squid. We all have those silly stories, don’t we? That’s a good thing … laughter is good! :-)

      Oh, yeah, I bet you’d love this dish! ;-)


  8. glutenfreeforgood on March 2nd, 2010 9:26 pm

    I don’t know, Shirley. I think I’m going to have to pass on the slimey, fishy, tentacle things, but I’ll have a pina colada, please. And one of your famous flourless chocolate desserts!


  9. Peter Bronski on March 3rd, 2010 7:19 pm

    Hey Shirley… I LOVE fried calamari! I’m going to have to make some soon, thanks to a new craving I have after seeing your post. A local sushi place by us does a “Hawaiian” calamari with a panko-crusted calamari and a mango chili dipping sauce. Alas, it’s not gluten-free, but I’m determined to make a GF analog. TIme to head into the kitchen and get to work…

    Cheers, Pete

    • Shirley on March 4th, 2010 5:10 pm

      Hey Pete–Great to see you! I remember you’re a calamari fan from your wonderful cookbook (The Artisanal Gluten-Free Cookbook for gfe readers; it’s on my recommended book listing). Now I need to go read to see how you make yours. ;-)

      I like the sound of that Hawaiian calamari! If you can come up with a gluten-free equivalent of panko, that will be amazing. I’ll be waiting, as I know you will! :-)


  10. sugar plum fairy on March 4th, 2010 7:43 am

    Am here thru my sweety poo frens blog-Chaya…aint she adorable ….love both her blogs and her shout out lead me here….
    The gurl doesnt fail to amaze me with all the cooking she does for hubby,yeah glutten free and she bakes a storm in the kitchen…a delicious one and now i mus say the same about u….u have so muc of deliciousness here ,that am having a few craving now…cheers…;-)))))

    • Shirley on March 4th, 2010 5:13 pm

      Hi there, sugar plum fairy–Welcome to gfe! Chaya is a sweetheart. :-) She’s always singing my praises (and I’m so thankful). She amazes me with all her energy and awesome recipes!

      Have a good look around here at gfe and then go forth and act on those cravings. ;-) I’ll be checking out your blog, Vanilla Strawberry Spring Fields, later …

      Thanks so much!


  11. Estergon on November 23rd, 2010 12:16 pm

    First Fried Calamari with Pico and Avocado Dressing Plus Pina Coladas food very very nice.
    But there is a one false on your making list about Greek yogurt! Yogurt is belong to Turkic history and Turk’s make it first yogurt! Please fixed this false. I’ll tryed your definition soon. Have a nice day!!

    • Shirley on November 24th, 2010 11:55 pm

      Hi Estergon–Welcome to gfe! :-) Thanks for the feedback on the food–much appreciated! As far as the yogurt, I’m only listing it as it appears in our stores, Greek yogurt. I don’t want to get into a debate over the origins. I have read that the topic is hotly debated and respect that, but again, that’s what one looks for when purchasing the yogurt in our stores.

      All the best,

  12. Mat on October 6th, 2011 6:30 pm

    I recently read that calamari comes out more tender if it’s soaked in milk overnight. I’ve tried it and it really worked! The first time I just put the bodies and tentacles in the milk. The next time I cut them into rings first, then soaked them. Either way works.

    • Shirley on October 9th, 2011 9:54 pm

      Hi Mat–It looks like you are new to gfe—welcome! :-) Interestingly enough, I just recently heard about soaking calamari in milk to tenderize it. Thanks for reminding me by sharing your experience. I’ll definitely give it a try next time!


  13. Colette on February 16th, 2012 10:56 pm

    OMG – I’m drooling reading this, want to jump out of bed right now (955pm) & start cooking!! LOL Can’t wait to try these recipes out!

    • Shirley on February 17th, 2012 12:17 pm

      Hi Colette–LOL I understand … we love calamari, too! In fact, we ate all except a little of the pound I cooked last night and Mr. GFE took that with him to work today. :-) I made a super simple “cheat” sauce last night. Just some pizza sauce and mayo, and I have to say that will be my “go to” sauce from now on, despite my love of avocado. It’s very close to the sauce we have enjoyed with the restaurant calamari I used to eat. ;-)

      Enjoy! Hope you’ll report back when you make this dish!

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