Spicy Sauteed Calamari with Tomatoes, Basil and White Beans

tonyr_pot_k1 James writes: My wife and I had a squid dish at an Italian place on the Cape and I want to recreate it. It was a saute with tomatoes and herbs and garlic. If you could share any insights on the dish, I would be appreciative.

tonyr_cook_k Tony’s take: James, glad you asked! Squid should get more run. It’s cheap, good for you, and sustainable. But it’s also stuck in fried-appetizer purgatory; calamari doesn’t often graduate from its bar menu typecast. The preparation you’re describing sounds easy enough: saute the calamari with a little bit of olive oil, some fresh herbs (basil?), crushed red pepper flakes, and fresh tomato. I took creative license and added in some cannellini beans to make the saute more of a meal. And it was good (hope you agree!). Here’s how:


-At the market: It’s unlikely you’ll find whole squid at the market, which is a good thing, because cleaning them is a bitch. Instead, you’re most likely presented with the option of bodies or tentacles. I generally ask for an even mix of the two; the tentacles can be a little too real for some. Though most all of my recipes call for at least 1 1/4 lb. seafood or meat, calamari is delicate and has little waste, so 3/4 lb. is more than enough for 4 people.

calamari.6 – Saute fast: The old saw for squid goes cook it either a little or a lot to ensure that it’s tender (anywhere in between begets rubber). For sauteed squid, I lean towards a little – below, just a quick sear followed by a saute with the tomatoes and beans. The initial saute is not so much about browning the squid as it is partially cooking it through. The tomatoes quickly meld into a sauce in which the calamari can finish cooking.

THE RECIPE: Serves 4

1.  Prep the squid: Rinse and pat dry 3/4 lb. squid (a mix of bodies and tentacles). Cut the triangular-shaped bodies into 1/4-inch rings. Soak again and pat dry well (the latter is important so the squid sautes, not steams). Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.


2. Saute the squid: Set a large, heavy-based skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbs olive oil and 1 garlic clove (thinly sliced). Once the garlic starts to sizzle steadily, add 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes and the squid. Cook, undisturbed, for 1 min. Then cook, stirring, until the color of the squid becomes opaque and the rings start to firm up, about 2 min total.


3. Quick braise: Add 3 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1/2 lb.; cut in 1/4-inch dice), sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes soften, about 2 min. Stir in a 15-oz. can cannellini beans (rinsed well and drained), 1 Tbs. capers (chopped) and 12 basil leaves (torn into pieces) and cook until the beans heat through and the squid is toothy but tender, about 2 more min. Season with S+P to taste and serve, sprinkled with more fresh basil,  and with crostini and a crisp white wine (like a Pinot Grigio).


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