Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Simply Stunning

Calamari "Ananas" & Riso con Curcuma, Finocchio & Pepe
Pineapple Squid With Turmeric Rice, Fennel & Peppers

Yes, I have to admit that this is quite an eye-opener at first glance... and maybe even at second glance when you take a look at that pineapple squid... but the truth of it is... it is SUCH a simple dish to make! Especially if you buy that squid already prepared for you!

Have you ever eaten so-called "pineapple squid"? If you have, you will know how much more tender it can be than regular, "whole" squid or calamari. This is because of all of the criss-cross cuts that score the surface in a diagonal pattern that looks somewhat similar to a pineapple- hence the name. 

Fortunately, these small squid are easily and inexpensively available at most Asian supermarket... just take a peek into the freezer there sometime and there it will be, waiting for you to take it home... sigh! Thanks heavens for that!

I tried preparing it myself once, but as simple as it may seem in principle, it is practically impossible to do for yourself... I have tried it in the past! The problem is that you need a VERY sharp knife and a VERY small amount of pressure, so that you score the surface but do not cut all the way through.... which you will! Trust me! And then go buy the frozen one like I did... because life is too, too short!

For one nice portion, I prepared 3 small pineapple squids, a cup and a half of rice, some mixed peppers- red, yellow and orange in this case, a little ginger, a little parsley, the juice of 1 lime, a half of a fennel bulb and a half teaspoon of turmeric. That and a little of my almost legendary "Salt of the Earth" and I was already to go!

You can find the recipe and link for my seasoned salt here:

I began by cutting a few fine slices of the red pepper to use more as a garnish than anything else, and started these gently frying in a hint of olive oil, whilst I carefully chopped the rest into a fine dice.

Once that was taken care of, I started the rice boiling- one and a half cups of rice to 3 cups of water, which I seasoned with a little salt and left to cook gently for 10 minutes in my rice cooker- but of course it is the exact same thing to boil it on the stovetop too ;-)

In the meantime, I sprinkled the thawed squid generously with the seasoned salt, added the juice of half a lime and a little olive oil and let it marinate for 5-10 minutes... it takes no longer than that!

After 10 minutes, the rice is almost done and is ready to have the heat turned off... and at this point, I added the diced paprika and a half teaspoon of turmeric. I added a drizzle of olive oil, the juice of the other half of the lime and about 1" of freshly grated ginger. I stirred all of these wonderful things together and then replaced the lid and let the rice continue steaming for a further 10 minutes in its own residual heat- which is ample to cook the peppers to such perfection, when they are diced at such a small size.

Next, I prepared the fennel by cutting it in half and then into quarters... of which 3 went into a frying pan with a little water and the other one became the chef's treat... I was hungry!

I let the fennel simmer for 5 minutes from each side, seasoned with salt and pepper... and a hint of sugar, then poured off any excess water, added a glug of oil and let the fennel soak it in for a couple of minutes, then, when it was tender and perfect, I set it to one side and turned my attention back to the rice...

By now the rice was fluffy and the peppers just tender- perfect! At least, perfect but not finished... finished in the sense of adding the juice of the other half of lime, a little more olive oil and a sprinkle of both fennel greens and parsley leaves to lighten and brighten up the flavors.

Which just left the calamari to be taken care of!

The whole secret is to get the pan as hot as you possibly can and to pop the squid in, face-side down and to press it gently, until you here it gently begin pop and become crispy... yummy-yum-yum!

After 2-3 minutes from either side, I poured the excess marinade juices over the top of the calamari, along with a drizzle of water to deglaze the pan, create a blast of steam and make sure that the squid cooks through thoroughly and becomes nice and tender.

The great thing about the "pineapple" cuts is that a.) they insure that the structure of the squid is flexible and therefore tender and b:) that a lot of great seasoning gets stuck between all of those fine cuts, letting the flavor seep right into it... delicious!

A last light sprinkle of salt, lime juice and olive oil, a scattering of parsley and those first, tender, rings of red pepper... and you just know you want to try it! And the best thing about it is- it is so easy and now you know how to make it for yourselves! ;-) Enjoy!

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