When I was little, the idea of eating squid was repulsive. To me, it was analogous to eating a space alien. Unless, of course, it was battered, deep fried into submission, and served with some sort of creamy/spicy dipping sauce. If it was unrecognizable as seafood, it was palatable. Fried popcorn shrimp (mostly batter) was also acceptable.
And then, later on, there was this story/rumor that every once in a while, those calamari rings were actually… get ready for it: pig anuses. Or, hog rectums. Is that the same thing?
Needless to say, it was important to me to purchase whole, recognizable squid for all future squid recipes.
Another problem I had with seafood was that it never filled me up. I had an insatiable teen appetite and after eating a salmon fillet with green beans and rice, it felt like I hadn’t started eating yet. This recipe, from Giada De Laurentis’ book Everyday Pasta, is mostly vegetables and seafood and has only a small amount of pasta. My teen self, still a small voice in my brain, warned me that I would have to hoover three servings to be satisfied.
But not so! Even with a mostly raw side dish of zucchini ribbons with almond pesto, we all felt stuffed on one serving alone. That’s a seafood success story in my book.
The vegetables get a nice char, even on a gas grill. When the recipe comes together, after no small amount of chopping, the kitchen sink list of veggies, pasta, beans, herbs and seafood create a fantastic combination of flavors.
Calamari and Shrimp Salad
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis’ Everyday Pasta
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound orzo pasta (about 1 cup)
1/2 pound – 1 pound calamari, whole bodies and tentacles
1/2 pound – 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise, about 1-inch wide
2 Japanese eggplant, sliced lengthwise, about 1-inch wide
2 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups packed arugula
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (green and purple)
2 lemons, juiced
2/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl with a small drizzle of olive oil.
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Drizzle the seafood, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Over high heat, grill the calamari and shrimp, just until cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes a side. Grill the tentacles on a piece of foil. Grill the zucchini and eggplant until tender, about 4 minutes per side. Grill the tomatoes just until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes.
Add the orzo, beans, arugula, and basil, to the bowl. Cut the calamari bodies into 1-inch rings. Cut the zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes into 1-inch cubes. Add the vegetables and calamari to a bowl with the lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Finally, add the shrimp on top of the salad. Spoon the salad into a serving bowl and serve.
Raw Zucchini Ribbons with Toasted Almond Pesto
Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large garlic clove peeled
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed (about 4 medium, thin and long if you can find them)
Grind almonds, parmesan cheese, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor until finely chopped. Add lemon juice, salt and olive oil and pulse a few times until combined. Pour the dressing in a large salad bowl and let it coat the sides.
Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, make zucchini ribbons about 1/16″ thick. Place the ribbons into the dressing-coated bowl. Toss the ribbons gently (use your hands so the ribbons don’t break apart). Coat the zucchini with the dressing as evenly as possible. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4.