Calamari with Chorizo & Artichoke

Sometimes when I cook there is an ulterior motive at play. I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t help myself. When someone tells me that they don’t like a certain ingredient that I really enjoy, I feel compelled to cook it again (and again…) in different ways until they come around and say, “Huh. That’s not half bad. Can I have some more?”  Out of respect for my friends and family, I try not to pull these shenanigans on them too often. Instead, I let Mike bear the brunt of my meddlesome ways.

When he espoused his hatred of tofu, I launched the Tofu Tribunal and tricked him into eating a vegetarian moussaka with tofu bechamel and creamy sweet plum Popsicles with blended tofu, before bringing out the big guns like grilled pomegranate and za’atar tofu kebabs and an Indian spiced Saag Tofu that he ended up liking as much as the traditional spinach with paneer.  The whole experience was very satisfying. In part, this was because of my complete vindication in proving Mike wrong about what he considered to be his food preferences, but I can also now incorporate a hitherto shunned ingredient back into my cooking repertoire without too much complaint from my husband.  

With tofu on the official Safe List, I needed a new target and it didn’t take me long to find a focus. For years, Mike has referred to octopi and squid as “Terrifying monsters of the sea” and tacitly refused to take more than a nibble from crisp lightly battered calamari rings at the pub. I, on the other hand, am quite comfortable with a tentacle dangling out from one side of my mouth, so clearly this was an area of great opportunity.

My initial tack with the Tofu Tribunal was to trick Mike into admitting that he enjoyed what he was eating, and then belligerently crow, “SUCKAH! THAT’S TOFU IN YOUR MOUTH! I WIIIIIIN!!!”  However, it’s a lot easier to disguise a versatile ingredient like tofu than it is to serve a steaming hot plate of cephalopods and  try to make it look like chicken.  Also, despite my questionable morals, I’m a piss-poor liar and if you ask me why it looks like there are suction cups in your stew, I’m going to have to tell you the truth. After all, I may be sneaky and full of guile, but I won’t deliberately misrepresent what I’m doing (we all know a vegetarian who has been burned by the line, “What? It’s just….’stock’….”). Ergo, when it came time to embark on this newest culinary agenda, I figured that I’d just be upfront about it.

Mike: “Ohdeargod that smells good! What’s in the oven?”

Tina: “Braised octopus.”

Mike: “………………………….you’re making octopus? You’re making OCTOPUS. You’re going to make me eat octopus. I DO NOT EAT–”

Tina: “It will be ready in an hour, so that’s plenty of time for you to get used to the idea.”

Note — That was a slow roasted octopus, braised in it’s own juices with a bit of white wine, potatoes, fennel and olives. It was briny and delicious. He ate a second helping.

Yes, Mike ate octopus. Twice.

We’re getting ready to take our belated honeymoon in a couple of weeks and we have our tickets booked to go forth and explore the beautiful country of Spain. When it comes to seafood, Spain is a country that knows what’s what, so I thought we’d build even more anticipation about the trip by preparing a few tapas or Spanish inspired meals.  And really, what better place to start than with squid and chorizo?? Two birds, one stone. That’s what I’m all about.

Calamari with Chorizo & Artichoke

Serves 4-6 as a light lunch with salad and bread, or 8 as a tapas dish

  • 1.25 lb (550 g) fresh cleaned squid, both bodies and tentacles
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 small links (6 oz /175 g) Spanish dried chorizo sausage
  • 9 oz (250 g) marinated/jarred artichoke hearts
  • 6 oz (175 g) mild Spanish green olives *
  • 1 lb (450 g) frozen fava beans **
  • 4 oz (120 g) roasted piquillo peppers ***
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Aleppo chili powder ****
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • small bunch parsley (1/2 cup chopped)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

* There is a world of olives out there when you get beyond jarred green manzanilla stuffed with pimento or the kalamata olives in your Greek salad.  From small French picholine olives to tumescent purple Galicians, exploring the variety in taste, texture and curing method is an absolute joy.  For this recipe, a mildly cured large green olive with a fruity and nutty taste is your best bet, such as Spanish Sevillano/Queen olives or Italian cerignola.

** Fava beans have a creamy fresh green interior and a tough exterior layer which is generally removed. However, for this recipe since the fava beans will cook for some time, I suggest that you leave this on or the legumes will literally melt into the sauce.

*** Piquillo peppers are generally sold fire roasted and packed in oil, and the flavor of this thin skinned pepper is smoky and sweet. If you can’t find piquillo peppers, your favorite jarred fire roasted red pepper is fine.

**** Oh, Aleppo chili pepper. How I love thee so.  With a medium heat, the ground Aleppo chili pepper has a sweet and smoky flavor which is often salty from the drying process.  You can substitute Ancho chili powder with a small pinch of brown sugar, or smoked paprika with a pinch of brown sugar and a dash of cayenne for heat.

Rinse the squid well under cold running water and shake each body dry.  I detest cleaning squid, so whenever possible I’ll buy them precleaned from a fishmonger. All that means is that the innards and beak have been removed, along with the long cartilage fin inside the body.  If you are cleaning the squid yourself and aren’t sure where to start, there are lots of guides to be found on the web, including this one. That guy just cracks me up with lines like, “After the nuclear apocalypse there will be nothing but cockroaches and squid around.”

Cut the tentacles away from the squid bodies and halve each body horizontally so you have 2 smaller tubes.  Using a sharp paring knife, hold the tube securely and slice horizontally about 1/4″ thick until you are a scant 1/4″ away from the far edge of the body. Do not cut all the way through and leave this intact so that the squid will “flower” as it cooks.

Peel and mince the garlic cloves and slice the chorizo into thin 1/8″ discs. Add the oil, garlic and chorizo to a cold pan and set it over medium heat.  Stir the garlic regularly so that it does not start to brown or burn.

After a sauté of 5 minutes or so, the chorizo should be starting to caramelize.  Pour in the wine and stir vigorously to scrape and lift off any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add the frozen fava beans, Aleppo chili powder, smoked paprika and red chili flakes.  Let this cook down for 6-8 minutes until the wine has reduced to the consistency of a thin syrup.

Coarsely chop the flesh of the Piquillo peppers and add them to the pan along with the raw squid.  Stir the mixture together and let it cook for only a minute…..

…before adding the artichoke hearts, quartered, and the whole olives.  Let the mixture continue to cook over medium heat for another 2 minutes.

Overcooked seafood is a stark tragedy, so be sure to keep an eye on your pan.  As soon as the squid has curled and started to firm up, but is still quite springy and just barely undercooked, take the pan off the heat.  At this point, the olives and artichoke will be heated through and the calamari will continue to cook -but not overcook- in the ambient heat of the pan.

Coarsely chop the parsley and halve a lemon.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the mix and stir in the chopped parsley immediately before serving the dish.  If you feel like your meal would benefit from a bit of salt and pepper, feel free to season away. However, between the chorizo, olives and artichoke, I like it without any additional seasoning.

Serve the calamari and chorizo warm with plenty of crusty bread to sop up that luxurious sweet and smoky pan sauce.

If you’re feeling fancy, another little sprinkle of smoked paprika on top of each portion will go a long way towards having your guests feel like they’re sitting on a pier in Valencia, and I mean that in the best possible way.

And before you ask, the answer is yes. Mike liked this dish.  A lot.  He ate his portion and then started picking away from mine, which is far and above the greatest compliment a gal could ask for.  He wouldn’t eat the tentacles, however, but didn’t exactly struggle through the tender calamari bodies.  And you know what? The tentacles are totally my favorite part, so I think this worked out rather splendidly for all concerned.

Another scorned ingredient which has been added back into the repertoire?  Check. Total vindication once more in convincing my husband to try something new?  Check.

I tell you what, though. I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be married to this wonderful man, and that living with Mike is just about as good as it gets.  He may fuss and whinge about the prospect of eating certain more…er….”exotic” ingredients, but the truth is that he has never refused to try anything that I’ve made. That kind of adventuresome spirit is an absolute joy, and the main reason that I push the culinary envelope for him in the way that I do. Because really, when it comes to food preferences and acquired tastes, if you’re not even willing to try something new then you’ll miss out on a world of scintillating taste and exciting flavors, and this is the world that I have to explore….with a man that I love even more than squid.

  • Cherie Harper

    Heavens above, this looks fantastic!! Will make this week, absolutely.

  • Hellcat13

    That makes me want to die. Mike, you are a better human being than I am. I would have started filing for divorce.

    So jealous of your Spain trip! I went there a number of years ago at about this time. I think I ate my weight at lunchtime every day in fresh bread and cheese and olives and the bloody amazing Spanish coffee. SO MUCH GOOD FOOD (I can’t eat seafood so can’t vouch for it, but my friend loved it). Tina will be in heaven.

  • Tina

    Cherie – Aw, thanks lady! If you do give this a go, please let us know what you think. You’re such a creative cook that if you put a spin on the recipe or make changes I’d love to hear all about them!!

    Hellcat13 – Two weeks to vacation and I absolutely can’t wait! Fresh bread, cheese and olives….what more could I ask for? Oh yes, abundant and affordable red wine. Woot!! As for the whole “monsters of the sea” thing, a few days later I followed that with fresh marinated smelt (like sardines). Yup. Scales and all. That….didn’t go over quite so well with poor Mike.