Crispy Calamari with Pesto Mayonnaise

  • Serves

    serves 8


Chef Jim Leiken of DBGB in New York City serves pesto-spiked mayonnaise as a dipping sauce for a salad of fried calamari, cauliflower, and chickpeas. This recipe first appeared in SAVEUR Issue #140 along with Laura Schenone's story Glorious Pesto



  • 1 12 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup packed parsley
  • 1 cup packed basil
  • 14 cup toasted pine nuts


  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 1 13 cups Wondra flour
  • 13 cup cornstarch
  • 13 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 lb. cleaned calamari, heads cut into 1/4″-wide rings
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 12 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped preserved lemon rind (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped lemon segments
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or paprika
  • 12 tsp. each ground cinnamon, ground cumin, ground ginger, sweet paprika, ground lime powder (optional), and ground black pepper
  • 14 tsp. ground coriander
  • 14 tsp. ground fennel seed
  • Mixed greens, for serving


Step 1

Make the pesto mayonnaise: Heat oil and garlic in a 1-qt. saucepan over low heat, and cook until garlic is soft, about 4 minutes; remove garlic, set aside, and let oil cool. In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, salt, and yolk until smooth; slowly drizzle in cooled oil, whisking constantly, until sauce emulsifies into a smooth mayonnaise. Puree mayonnaise, reserved garlic, herbs, and nuts in a blender until smooth; transfer to a serving bowl and chill.

Step 2

Pour oil to a depth of 2″ in a 6-qt. Dutch oven, and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Whisk together Wondra, cornstarch, and chickpea flour in a bowl; set aside. Combine calamari, milk, cauliflower, and chickpeas in a another bowl; drain and transfer to flour mixture, tossing until coated. Working in batches, fry calamari, cauliflower, and chickpeas until golden brown and calamari is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and then place in a large bowl and toss with lemon rind and segments, salt, Aleppo pepper, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, paprika, lime powder, black pepper, coriander, and fennel. Transfer to a large serving platter on top of mixed greens and serve with pesto mayonnaise on the side.

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