[Photograph: Eric Wolfinger]

I love the idea of this salad from Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos' new cookbook, Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from our Tuscan Kitchen. Charred calamari, tart grapefruit, crunchy fennel, and peppery arugula seem like a winning combination. Sadly, it didn't quite come together for me.

All the components were there: sweetness, bitterness, acid, a little heat. But the balance just wasn't there. For one thing, there's simply too much calamari. The other components were overwhelmed the squid's assertive flavor and texture. And, if you use all the dressing as directed, you'll end up with more soup than salad. Finally, Mazar and Corcos suggest that it serves four to six as a main course, but I honestly can't imagine it satisfying more than two.

In light of the problems I encountered, I'd recommend doubling the grapefruit, fennel, and arugula, and dressing the mix to taste. Luckily, it's a relatively simple and straightforward tweak to execute, and will land you with the appealing, refreshing salad this dish deserves to be.

Why I picked this recipe: It has the potential to be a bright, filling salad that would work year-round.

What worked: The concept. It's a beautiful salad, in theory.

What didn't: The execution. Too much squid, too much dressing, and not enough of everything else.

Suggested tweaks: Fill out the salad by doubling the fruit and veg components. Also, if your grapefruit skews sweet, as mine did, a squeeze or two of lemon juice in the dressing will work wonders.

As usual, we have 5 copies of Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from our Tuscan Kitchen to give away this week.


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