Cookbook Roulette #5 – When Dinner Has Tentacles

I couldn’t settle on an exact recipe from this week’s cookbook before we set off on our trip over the hill and to the market for groceries. So I penciled a few notes onto the list and decided to see what was available before making any firm choices. Oxtail was intriguing, but the recipe was of the stew/braise variety, which seemed less appealing when I considered that temperatures are starting to hit the 100s. Chicken would be easy, but also felt like a bit of a cop out considering that my third dish of choice was squid. On the other hand, I wasn’t at all confident in my ability to source squid without venturing off our regular shopping track. But, surprisingly to me, nestled in the seafood freezer next to the shrimp and salmon was a bag of squid rings and tentacles. I gleefully snatched it up and brought it home with me to venture into this week’s experiment.

The Cookbook:

Between the oxtail and the squid, you might be wondering what kind of cooking we’re dealing with this week. And the answer is – Spanish! Namely the World Market Spanish book. I’ll probably be corrected if I’m wrong, but I believe it was a gift from my youngest sister. Contrary to family tradition, she didn’t write any notes on the fly leaf, so I can’t place the exact occasion for the gift. I can shamefacedly admit that I hadn’t ventured to try any of the recipes previously. Once I settled on squid, I was still debating between the appetizer fried version, the Squid with Peas, or Squid on the Grill. But by the time the dinner hour rolled around on Wednesday, my already hot kitchen easily convinced me to take my cooking outside. ‘

The Recipe:

Everything *but* the squid was a normal ingredient for me.

9 ounces squid (I used a mix of tentacles and tubes)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP lemon zest
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 TBSP chopped parsley
salt and pepper

My squid came already broken down into rings, which was actually unfortunate, as I think it would have been easier to work with in slightly larger pieces. If you have whole squid, break it down into slices about two inches long, rinse them, and pat dry.

Mix the oil, juice, zest, garlic, and parsley together and toss with the prepared squid. Add salt and pepper to taste – I used a scant amount and later regretted it, so I don’t recommend being too shy here. Leave the mixture to marinate for about thirty minutes. (This was the perfect amount of time for me to prep the potato planks and sweet peppers that rounded out our meal.)

All gussied up and ready to marinate!

Preheat your grill, or a griddle, until very hot. Brush with a bit more olive oil and then drop your squid on. It cooks quite quickly and will turn rubbery if overdone, so keep a close eye on it. One to two minutes should be enough, with a single turn so that both sides are evenly cooked.

The Verdict:

Look at all the little suction cups!

Don’t put too much blame on the squid for this verdict. I’ve eaten it in the past without the reaction I managed this time around. Mostly in deep fried calamari form, it’s true, but I’ve also had baby octopus without a fuss, so it wasn’t just the legs getting to me. I think, in the end, it was a combination of feeling unsure about my cooking times, a lack of flavor to the final product, and watching the little tentacles spring back off the grill as I flipped them over that made me face this bowl with so much trepidation. I’m no expert on squid, but they came out tasting vaguely of lemon and not much else, which was not what I had in mind at the beginning of the project. I’ll probably never embrace squid with the enthusiasm of someone who didn’t grow up in a landlocked state, but I am still willing to give the rest of the bag of squid meat another try with a different recipe – perhaps that tried and true breaded and fried version?