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

Ingredients

  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

Instructions

  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.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/04/sicilian-lifeguard-squid-with-couscous/

Sicilian-Spiced Roasted Cashews

I don’t know about you, but I’m about done with winter – for some reason this one seems endlessly gray, cold and dreary. But change is in sight, I think; this week I noticed that the days are a bit longer, with the daylight fading into darkness just a few minutes later than last week.

I found myself looking through my stack of cookbooks looking for some inspiration, and lingered over one with a beautiful image of a sun-soaked bowl of golden cherries on the cover: a collection of recipes from Gangivecchio, a restaurant in Sicily that dates back to Roman times. I’m not sure what the weather is like in Sicily at this time of year, but somehow I feel warm imagining myself walking around the winding streets of Palermo, shopping the outdoor markets.

Lidia Bastianach, the Italian chef and cooking teacher, describes in her book Lidia’s Italy how the North African summer sun gives food produced there here an intensity not found anywhere else in Italy

“…the tomatoes are sweeter, the oil is more deeply flavored, the fennel has more licorice, capers are nuttier, and the anchovies and sea urchins taste more of the sea”.

Sounds good to me. In the spirit of hot summers to come, I roasted a batch of cashews and seasoned them with some of the intense tastes of Sicily: fennel, cumin, anise, hot pepper and orange.


Sicilian-Spiced Roasted Cashews

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients

  1. 2 egg whites
  2. 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  3. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  4. 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  5. Freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
  6. 1/4 teaspoon each: ground cumin, fennel, cayenne, paprika, anise seed
  7. 3 cups raw whole cashews
  8. Grated fresh orange or tangerine zest

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients except the cashews and zest until combined. Toss in the cashews and stir them around until they're evenly coated.
  3. Spread the cashews on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake 20 -25 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Cool on a rack - they will crisp up after about 10 minutes. Grate orange zest over the cashews while still warm.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/02/sicilian-spiced-roasted-cashews/