(NYTIMES) - In Italy, it shows up in rustic fish soups, in fritto misto, simmered in a luscious squid-ink sauce for the most exquisite spaghetti or risotto. It is also frequently found as perfectly fried calamari, served with a lemon wedge.
Throughout Asia, fresh squid features in dishes of every sort. On my first trip to Thailand, I encountered air-dried squid as a favourite street-food snack. The vendor first toasts the squid over charcoal, then rolls it paper-thin with a hand-cranked machine. A large sheet of flattened squid emerges as crisp as a potato chip, ready to dip in a sweet-and-spicy sauce. In Japan, raw squid (or its cousin, cuttlefish) is a popular choice at sushi bars – beautiful white translucent slices draped over the sweet rice.
In Spain, the squid is extraordinary, especially the tiny chipirones, which are fried whole. On tapas bar menus, squid is often prepared a la plancha: sizzled on a hot griddle with garlic and parsley. And there are amazing canned specialities.
In the United States, most fish markets have cleaned squid among their offerings, either fresh or frozen. My fishmonger always has fresh-caught ones, which I prefer. You can choose between tubes (bodies) or tentacles – both are delicious – but I like a mixture of both.
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While everyone loves crisp, deep-fried calamari, it is worth discovering other ways to cook squid. It is marvellous grilled and, with grilling season in full swing, now is the perfect time to give it a try.
It is a simple matter of coating the bodies and tentacles lightly with oil and laying them on the grill over a brisk bed of coals. If your grill rack has widely spaced bars, skewer the tentacles to keep them from falling through. The bodies can simply be turned with tongs.
Depending on the size of the squid, you will need to cook them for about four minutes a side. Any size can be prepared this way, but meaty larger pieces work best. They are done once they puff up and are firm to the touch, but leave them on the heat long enough to brown nicely, even to char a bit. Do the same with the tentacles.
You can serve grilled squid as is, with a knife and fork. But let the farmers' market help decide. The other day, I found first-of-the-season Romano beans, hot chillies and cilantro, so the result was a spicy salad marrying beans and squid - perfect for sultry weather.
Spicy Grilled squid and Green Bean salad
454g large squid, whole bodies (tubes) and tentacles, cleaned (about 8)
Salt and pepper
3 to 4 Tbs peanut oil or other vegetable oil
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 Tbs lime juice or rice vinegar
1 Tbs Asian fish sauce or 2 tsp finely chopped anchovy
1 Tbs finely chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno chilli, seeds removed to lessen heat if desired, chopped or thinly sliced
1 red Fresno chilli, seeds removed to lessen heat, chopped or thinly sliced
454g tender green beans or Romano beans, ends trimmed (topped and tailed)
½ cup slivered scallions, white and green parts
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped, plus a few sprigs reserved for garnish
1. Rinse the squid with cold water, drain and pat dry. Transfer to a baking sheet in one layer. Drizzle with 1 Tbs of peanut oil. Season the squid on both sides with salt and pepper and season tentacles. (If they are small, thread them onto bamboo skewers.) Make sure everything is lightly coated with oil. Set aside.
2. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a stovetop grill to medium-high. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
3. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs of peanut oil, toasted sesame oil, lime juice and fish sauce. Stir in ginger, garlic and half the jalapeno and Fresno chillies (or less, if chillies are very hot).
4. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook for one to two minutes until firm tender. Drain and spread out on a baking sheet lined with a kitchen towel. Let cool to room temperature.
5. Lay the squid bodies on the grill and cook for three to four minutes a side until lightly browned (bodies will puff up). Grill tentacles until firm and slightly charred, turning with tongs, for three to four minutes. Transfer the cooked squid to a cutting board. Let cool slightly, then cut bodies crosswise into 1.27cm-thick slices. Cut tentacles in halves or quarters, if large; otherwise leave whole.
6. Place the green beans and sliced squid in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then add the vinaigrette and toss to coat with wooden spoons. Add the remaining half of the chillies, the scallions and cilantro and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining chillies if desired and garnish with cilantro springs.