Calamari, squid ink, basil and tomatoes
It’s unreasonably hard to locate squid ink in the Greater Toronto Area. We spent a few days calling a few dozen specialty and gourmet food stores trying to locate some squid ink for this recipe. After this frustration, we decided to go the route of harvesting the ink ourselves from the fresh squids we ended up finding at the our local Asian foods market. The recipe began with some beautiful fresh local tomatoes, basil and garlic from our farmers market.
Don’t worry, the tomatoes didn’t grow multicolored on one vine, we just put them together to make the image look less busy! The tomatoes were quickly blanched in boiling water for a few seconds then plunged into an ice bath and peeled.
These were then diced, and placed in a saucepan to simmer with basil, garlic and olive oil until slightly reduced. We then turned our attention to the fun ingredient of this recipe–the squid. This process was not very complicated, and I had fun taking it apart. Melissa, on the other hand, had a hard time staying in the room to take pictures. The process was as follows:
I rinsed the squid under running water for a few minutes until clean.
The tentacles and head were removed from the body, while being careful not to rupture the ink sac and placed in a bowl of cold water.
The spine was pulled out from the body (this looks surprisingly like plastic, I was shocked!).
I then peeled the reddish/purple skin from the squid to reveal the nice glossy white meat underneath.
(This is where things get a little messy!)
The tentacles were separated from the head right under the eyes, while being careful to not puncture one of the small ink sacs located behind the eyes.
At this point we couldn’t avoid it any longer, it was time to extract some squid ink. The ink sac was actually larger than we thought it would be for this size of the squid. It had a shiny blue exterior, and felt hard and filled with ink of a play-dough like consistency.
After some research online, we decided it was best to harvest the ink into a half and half mixture of white vinegar and water as the help dissolve the crystalline ink.
After this was finished, I sliced up the bodies and tentacles and lightly fried them in a pan. In hindsight, I think I cut the calamari rings a little thick–noted for next time!
I then added some of the harvested squid ink to the cooked calamari and mixed it to coat the white meat in a bowl.
Plating this recipe was quick and simple. We placed some of the “tomato stew” into a shallow dish and topped it with the cooked and coated calamari.
The resulting dish was visually stunning! I definitely overcooked the calamari, but otherwise the combination of flavours was nice. The tomato component was delicious, I would eat this part on its own or make it as a side dish with dinner.
After we finished the recipe, we did some research online and learned that the squid ink had the strange consistency it did because of the age of the squid. If I were to try this again, I would use a younger and fresher squid!