Sicilian Lifeguard Squid with Couscous

I have one thing to ask of you  – please don’t be squeamish about eating squid. I know these bottomfeeding creatures look a bit freaky with their tentacles and all, but squid deserve a more elevated place on your daily menu.

I’ve compiled a short list of good-to-know facts about these tasty cephalopods to help you in your journey toward squiddy-liciousness. Squid are:

* Cheap! They cost less per pound than seafood, poultry or red meat
* Low in fat, high in lean protein
* FAST to cook – in less than 3 minutes
* Hornier than Hugh Hefner; they have frenzied mating orgies

Mario Batali’s recipe for Two-Minute Calamari, Sicilian Lifeguard Style appears in his Babbo cookbook, which I was compelled to make the other night. I’m not clear on whether this recipe is acutally traditional in Sicily; I’m thinking Mario was going for a sexy title. He explains that pine nuts, currants, capers and chiles put a “hot and sour Arabic kiss” on the squid. Sounds good to me.

Later, I Googled around and found Melissa Clark’s version of the recipe, which turned out to be very much how I had made it, sans currants (maybe Sicilian in character, but not so appealing to me), and including spinach since I had some.

Sicilian Lifeguard Squid with Couscous

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6


  1. 2 cups canned diced or crushed tomatoes
  2. 3 gloves garlic
  3. Handful fresh basil leaves
  4. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1 large shallot or small onion, thinly sliced
  6. 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  7. 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  8. 1/4 cup capers in brine, drained
  9. 1 1/2 pounds cleaned squid bodies and tentacles, sliced 1/2-inch wide
  10. 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  11. Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  12. 3 scallions, chopped
  13. 2 cups cooked Israeli pearl couscous


  1. Puree the tomatoes, garlic and basil in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  2. Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, pine nuts and red pepper and cook until the nuts are golden, stirring frequently; about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a simmer before adding the capers and squid. Cover and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, just until the squid is completely opaque. Stir in the spinach until it wilts. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed and toss in the scallions.
  4. Serve over warm couscous.

Smoky Shrimp Chowder with Chicken Andouille

Hearty shrimp chowder with Cajun flavors
Hearty shrimp chowder with Cajun flavors

My son J is a third grader and doesn’t seem to be growing out of his picky-eater stage.

I’m always slightly embarrassed to admit that there are nights when I make the poor kid cry; he’ll come into the kitchen and ask what we’re having for dinner, and more than likely it’s not what he’s really hoping for: a Steak ‘n Shake cheeseburger or his all-time favorite home-cooked meal, Pasta Carbonara. That’s when his outraged tears flow and I feel like  throwing in my cooking towel.

I mean, I go to all the trouble to make family dinners from scratch and he breaks down and sobs as if he’s being tortured? I have to remind myself that this is a stage he will grow out of soon enough. How nice that there is already a hopeful sign that he’s well on the way to expanding his culinary horizons: the boy loves soup.

For some reason, he will happily devour most of the foods he detests if there are in the form of soup, so I’ve taken to hauling out the old tureen lately. It’s nice that the autumn weather is finally here –  hot soup is something we all like to eat on a busy weeknight. We’ve had versions of our favorite Roasted Sweet Potato Soup along with plain old chicken noodle.

I have to admit that he did pick the shrimp out of this chowder (more for us!)  but he lapped the remains of his bowl greedily.

Now I better start thinking about the next thing I can turn into soup before he catches on!

Smoky Shrimp Chowder with Chicken Andouille

Serving Size: 4 - 6 servings


  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  2. 1 leek, white and light green portions, sliced
  3. 2 crushed garlic cloves
  4. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  5. 1 pound chicken andouille sausage, sliced
  6. 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) Cajun seasoning blend
  7. 4 cups chicken broth
  8. 3/4 pound diced potatoes
  9. 1 cup whole milk
  10. 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  11. Fine sea salt, cayenne and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat the oil or butter in a large pot or heavy saucepan. Add the leeks and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the thyme, andouille and Cajun seasoning and cook until sausage is seared on all sides.
  2. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil; add the potatoes and slightly cover the pot. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. When the potatoes are done, pour in milk and bring to a gentle simmer; if it gets too thick add more stock or water.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink.
  5. Taste the chowder for seasoning and add salt, black or cayenne pepper to taste.

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse Recipe


I’m caught up in Julia Child fever {so much so that I’ve started a new blog – visit Dinner with Julia and follow me as I dive into Julia’s recipes}; the movie Julie & Julia is opening this weekend and I’m not ashamed to say that I will be standing in line for a ticket. I’ve read that Meryl Streep has captured the best of what we love about Julia, from her warbly, exuberant voice to her healthy physical lust for her husband.

Thinking about my Julia Child moment had me plucking my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking off the shelf for a little sit-down time. I wanted to make a recipe from the book, but I had trouble conjuring that spark of hunger that usually makes me rush to the kitchen to cook.

Is it because some of the recipes in Mastering are stuck in a bit of a time warp?

Browsing through the book, I see recipes that speak to another time, a time before crème fraîche became a staple in the grocery store and we knew not to cook a piece of pork to within an inch of its life: cold chicken aspic decorated with slivers of canned pimiento, veal Prince Orloff and crepes filled with boiled, canned pineapple.  In my mind I draw a caricature of the 1960’s American housewife that Julia was writing for – a perfectly coiffed woman about to throw a dinner party in her sprawling suburban ranch house, wearing a bullet bra, Jackie O skirt suit and smoking a long cigarette, like a character from the television show Mad Men.

But in between the thick, cream-colored pages of Julia’s tome are a multitude of other classic recipes and techniques that will never go out of style or fail to please – her precise directions for making homemade mayonnaise, perfect rolled omelets and puffy souffles are what make Mastering the Art of French Cooking stand alone on the cookbook shelf.

I chose to make the bouillabaisse (page 52) the other day, along with a rouille sauce to smear on crusty toasted bread.

Bouillabaisse is a Provençal fish soup, and Julia stresses the importance of keeping it simple; the broth is fortified with lots of seafood shells and trimmings (available for less than a dollar a pound at your fish counter) and flavored with the typical flavors of the region: garlic, saffron, olive oil and tomatoes.

The soup was outstanding and I like how it had something for everyone at my table (picky children among them)  – delicious broth, different kinds of fish and seafood, and a big hunk of bread to soak up every drop in the bowl.

The simplicity and authentic taste of this recipe is what Julia Child is all about to me. It also defines how I love to cook.

Julia says it best:

This is the kind of food I had fallen in love with: not trendy, souped-up fantasies, just something very good to eat….the ingredients have been carefully selected and beautifully and knowingly prepared. Or, in the words of the famous gastronome Curnonsky, “Food that tastes of what it is”. (from My Life in France)

Here’s to you, Julia!

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse Recipe

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

Serve the bouillabaisse with toasted bread and rouille on the side.


  1. 1/2 cup olive oil
  2. 1 cup each chopped onion and leek
  3. 4 cloves mashed garlic
  4. 2 or 3 large, ripe tomatoes
  5. 2 1/2 quarts water
  6. Fresh herb sprigs: thyme, parsley, fennel fronds and basil (in any combination)
  7. 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  8. 1 tablespoon sea salt
  9. 3 - 4 pounds fish heads, bones, trimmings, shrimp shells
  10. 1 1/2 pounds each peeled shrimp (use the shells for the stock); wild cod, halibut and/or sole cut into chunks, and debearded, scrubbed mussels or clams
  11. Toasted rustic bread
  12. For the Rouille:
  13. 1 roasted and peeled red bell pepper
  14. 1 roasted hot red chile pepper or ground cayenne pepper to taste
  15. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  16. 1 small peeled garlic clove
  17. 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs or finely chopped almonds
  18. 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  19. Fine sea salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
  20. 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


    For the soup:
  1. Heat the oil in a tall pot (I used an 8 quart stockpot) over medium heat; add the onion and leek and cook gently until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, water, herbs, saffron, salt and fish bones. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat so that the broth bubbles slowly without boiling.
  2. Cook 30 minutes, then strain the broth into a large bowl or another pot and discard the solids.
  3. Pour the broth back into the stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, a minute or two. Add the rest of the fish and shellfish, cover and simmer until the mussels or clams open. Taste the soup and add more salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.
  4. For the Rouille:
  5. Puree everything except for the olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while processing to form a paste.