Monday, April 20, 2009

Slow-Simmered Calamari with Spaghetti & Spinach

I'm so excited about this recipe because it's the perfect example of how you can build layers of flavor with the simplest ingredients and good technique. And, it's incredibly good!

I can't take the credit for this one; it's from Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes, a new cookbook by Tessa Kiros. The book is gorgeous with tons of photos, and chapters are devoted to dishes from the places that played a role the author's life and family history: Finland, Cyprus, Greece and Italy.

Though it's a different style of organization, I quickly began to appreciate the eclecticism. One of the first things I noticed was the variety of interesting lamb dishes. Considering the regions covered in the book, naturally there are a lot of seafood dishes and Mediterranean flavors as well. This book is also Gourmet magazine's Cookbook Club book of the month for May, so I'm not the only one impressed with Kiros' work! You can see more recipes from the book on the Gourmet website if you register.

I chose this particular recipe because I almost never cook squid. Why, I don't know--it's cheap and easy to find. I do know that you should either cook squid very fast (like over a hot grill or deep fried) or very slow to avoid a rubbery texture. This recipe employs the slow method, and it made me a squid enthusiast.

Simmering the squid along with garlic, chile flakes, parsley, white wine, tomatoes and fish stock in a covered skillet on low heat for an hour creates a supple, tender texture that remains firm, rather than mushy. But not only does time do wonderful things to the squid, it creates deeply a flavorful sauce with a slightly red tint from the tomatoes that melt away in the cooking. My advice is not to omit any of the ingredients--the wine is mandatory unless you have a health-related excuse--and fresh Italian parsley is also a must. Buy a good imported brand of dried spaghetti and make sure it's cooked al dente. With just a few simple ingredients, each one must contribute maximum deliciousness!

Do you cook squid at home? If so, how? If you have a blog, leave a link to your fave squid recipe in the comments or drop me an email.

Slow-Simmered Calamari with Spaghetti
Adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros
I used Kitchen Basics brand fish stock, which is widely available and lower in sodium than many brands. If you can't find fish stock, use water.

Serves 4

1 lb. calamari (squid)
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. dried chile flakes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley, plus additional for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, Pinot Grigio)
2 whole canned tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fish stock or broth, plus 1 additional cup (optional; see below)
4 cups firmly packed spinach leaves, chopped
Coarse salt
12 oz. spaghetti

Cut the squid bodies into 1/2-inch wide rings and leave the tentacles intact. Pat dry with paper towel. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chile flakes and two-thirds of the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the squid and parsley and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring often. Season with black pepper.

Add the wine and simmer until nearly absorbed. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 1 minute. Add about 1/3 cup of the fish stock, wait until it has reduced a bit and add another 1/3 cup and let it reduce. Add yet another 1/3 cup, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Check the squid frequently and add water and/or stock to the skillet so there is always a layer of simmering liquid. To keep the sauce from getting too salty, alternate between adding water and stock. If it tastes salty, just add water. When squid is done, you want a thin layer of liquid in the skillet.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in another skillet on medium-low heat. Add remaining garlic, cook for 1 minute and add the spinach. Cook until tender and season with pepper. Add to the squid during the final 5 minutes of cooking.

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Reserve a cup of the cooking water, drain and add pasta to the skillet with the squid. Toss well and add a bit of the pasta cooking water if it is too dry. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately. Garnish with additional parsley.

Review copy of Falling Cloudberries generously provided by the publisher.


Melita said...

this looks FANTASTIC!! love your blog!!

Julie said...

Melita: Thanks for stopping by!

Joan Nova said...

I love layering flavors. Here's a link for you that features calamari, from my Culinary Tour Around the World and the stop was Portugal <> . It was quite delicious.

Mark Scarbrough said...

Lovely. I love cooking squid. And they now sell it presliced and precleaned at the Stop-N-Shop near me--so how bad can it be. (Although the first time I ever cleaned a squid on my own at home, the ink exploded all up my arm--and I almost lost my lunch in the sink. But that's a whole 'nother story from my days as a vegetarian.) Can't imagine a better notion that squid and pasta like this. Check out a different take--with octopus, admittedly, but you could use squid--on my blog:

Txeizs said...

I saw your lentil recipes on NPR and I've been stopping by your blog and trying new things ever since. I loved this recipe! Thanks

Julie said...

Txeizs: Thanks so much for leaving a comment! Glad you liked this recipe!

~~louise~~ said...

Oh Julie, I am so delighted to have found this recipe in my search engine while preparing for National Spaghetti Day today. It brought back such a flood of comforting memories from my childhood.

Thank you so much for sharing...I "borrowed" the link to include in my post...

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Kat said...

Found your blog whilst searching for a slow cooked calamari recipe.

Turned out fabulously! I also added red capsicum and mushrooms to bulk it up a bit.

Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

I tried this with some friends and it did not turn out to well. It looks good and it sounded good, but the end results was not to our expectations.

I'm not the best cook in the world by far, but sea food and pasta really make a strange combination.

I would love to see another recipe that does not include pasta if possible.