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Squid dishes mastered in many cuisines

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    A spicy grilled squid salad with green beans, scallions, and cilantro. While everyone loves crisp, deep-fried calamari, it’s also marvelous grilled and part of a salad.

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    Smaller squid can be skewered and grilled. Bodies and tentacles are both good eating.

As a confirmed squid lover, I have happily eaten more than my fair share, at home and on the road, in places hither and yon.

In Italy it shows up in rustic fish soups, in fritto misto, simmered in a luscious squid-ink sauce for the most exquisite spaghetti or risotto. It’s also frequently found as perfectly fried calamari, served with a lemon wedge.

Throughout Asia fresh squid shows up in dishes of every sort. On my first trip to Thailand, I encountered air-dried squid as a favorite street-food snack. The vendor first toasts the squid over charcoal, then rolls it paper-thin with a hand-cranked machine. A large sheet of flattened squid emerges as crisp as a potato chip, ready to dip in a sweet-and-spicy sauce.

In Japan raw squid (or its cousin, cuttlefish) is a popular choice at sushi bars — beautiful white translucent slices draped over the sweet rice.

In Spain the squid is extraordinary, especially the tiny chipirones, which are fried whole. On tapas bar menus, squid is often prepared a la plancha: sizzled on a hot griddle with garlic and parsley. And there are amazing canned specialties.

Here in the United States, most fish markets have cleaned squid among their offerings, either fresh or frozen. My fishmonger always has fresh-caught, which I prefer. You can choose between tubes (bodies) or tentacles — both are delicious — but I like a mixture of both.

While everyone loves crisp, deep-fried calamari, it’s worth discovering other ways to cook squid.

It’s marvelous grilled. It’s a simple matter of coating the bodies and tentacles lightly with oil and laying them on the grill over a brisk bed of coals. If your grill rack has widely spaced bars, skewer the tentacles to keep them from falling through. The bodies can simply be turned with tongs.

Depending on the size of the squid, you’ll need to cook them for about four minutes per side. Any size can be prepared this way, but meaty larger pieces work best. They are done once they puff up and are firm to the touch, but leave them on the heat long enough to brown nicely, even to char a bit. Do the same with the tentacles.

You can serve grilled squid as is, with a knife and fork. But let the farmers market help decide. The other day, I found first-of-the-season Romano beans, hot chilies and cilantro, so the result was a spicy salad marrying beans and squid, perfect for sultry weather.

SPICY GRILLED SQUID AND GREEN BEAN SALAD

  • 1 pound large squid, whole bodies (tubes) and tentacles, cleaned (about 8)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 pound tender green beans or Romano beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup slivered scallions
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped, plus a few sprigs reserved for garnish
  • >> Vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil or other vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice or rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or 2 teaspoons finely chopped anchovy
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed to lessen heat if desired, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1 red Fresno chili, seeds removed to lessen heat, chopped or thinly sliced

Rinse squid with cold water, drain and pat dry. Transfer to a baking sheet in single layer. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Season on both sides with salt and pepper, and season tentacles. (If squid are small, thread them onto bamboo skewers.) Make sure everything is lightly coated with oil. Set aside.

Prepare a charcoal grill, or heat a stovetop grill to medium-high. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

To make vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together oils, lime juice and fish sauce. Stir in ginger, garlic and half the jalapeno and Fresno chilies (or less, if chilies are very hot). Reserve the rest for garnish.

Drop beans into boiling water and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until firm-tender. Drain and spread on a baking sheet lined with a kitchen towel. Let cool to room temperature.

Lay squid bodies on grill and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, until lightly browned (bodies will puff up). Grill tentacles until firm and slightly charred, turning with tongs, 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board. Let cool slightly, then cut bodies crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut tentacles in halves or quarters, if large; otherwise leave whole.

Combine green beans and sliced squid in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add scallions and cilantro; toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining chilies, if desired, and garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serves 4.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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