Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ode to Squid

Squid, when they are swimming, look like evil little demons heading to their master. Or hypnotized animals following the sirens' call. They swim in groups, all of their pointy little heads tilted in the same direction, and they move by fluttering their tentacles--all of this combining to look like they are being pulled by some magnetic force to their destination.

They are also beautiful. They have purple flecked skin that changes to golden brown for camouflage purposes. Every time we saw a group of squid while snorkeling on vacation I was mesmerized and found myself following them as they glided through the ocean. I also found myself wishing that we had splurged for the water case for the camera so I could snap pictures of the little guys.

My first memory of eating squid was in the third grade at science camp. We dissected them, pulling out the spine to write our names with the ink, and then cut them up and sauteed them for a little snack. I remember thinking it was rubbery, and, quite frankly gross. Of course, throughout the years I have had my fair share of fried calamari--sometimes quite good and often quite bad--but it wasn't until two years ago at Christmas that I started to think about squid as a fish to cook and enjoy at home.

My mother bought some un-prepped squid from her fish guy, and then had a "family project" during which we all learned how to clean the little guys for cooking. First, you pull off the wings, which helps you loosen the skin which you also pull off. Then, you reach inside and pull out the spine, and finally you open up the top and pop off the little beak. I started out the activity begrudgingly, but it was actually kind of fun to get my hands a little dirty and relive my science camp dissection days with a different purpose. Of course, the squid, tossed in an Italian vinaigrette with vegetables, was delicious.

This week at the farmer's market, my favorite fish market had squid for relatively cheap and I snapped up a pound without thinking about what to do with it (a rarity for this devout recipe/list girl). I also got ramps, asparagus, and whole wheat pasta. When I got home I saw this recipe and this recipe on Closet Cooking and I figured I could make a variation of the pesto and add the squid to the dish. It was delicious--full of spring flavor and slightly lighter than your average pesto.

*photo courtesy of DP

Whole Wheat Pasta with Asparagus and Ramp Pesto and Calamari
Pesto adapted from Closet Cooking
*I should note here that I don't really use recipes for pesto. I just throw things in the food processor, whirl it around, taste, and adjust for seasoning/texture. So I'll give my method here.

1 bunch ramps
1 fistfull of basil
3-4 tablespoons olive oil (the original recipe called for 1 tablespoon--maybe because I don't measure, my pesto was originally way too thick. I ended up pouring it through the food processor opening until I got the right consistency--I think it was about 3 tablespoons)
zest of 1 lemon
palmful of walnuts
lemon juice (to taste, and to help with the consistency so you can use a little less oil)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 spears blanched asparagus (from a bunch, use the rest with the pasta)

Place everything in the food processor and turn on, blending until you reach the desired consistency. I like mine a bit chunky.

For the pasta:
12 oz whole wheat pasta, cooked according to package directions
The rest of the bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch sections
1 lb squid, cut into 1/4 inch rings
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup asparagus and ramp pesto

1. Blanch the asparagus (place in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, until bright green, then remove and plunge into ice water).
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet, add the squid and a little salt and pepper, saute until opaque.
3. Place pasta in large bowl. Add asparagus, calamari, and pesto. Toss. Enjoy!

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