I love squid: it's delicious, sustainable, inexpensive and easy. When I first started cooking squid you had to remove the quill-like shell (it's on the inside, unlike other shellfish), take out the inksac (right behind the eyes) and the beak (inside the tentacles), clean out the interior and peel off the pretty lavender skin. But now most squid comes pre-cleaned so you don't have to bother with any of that. Modern squid is ready to cook, which means it makes an almost-instant dinner.
Wandering past the seafood case the other day, the squid seemed to be calling out to me. I bought a pound, took it home, and made this completely satisfying supper. (The recipe is very loosely adapted from one in Bruce Cost's Big Bowl Cookbook.
Gingered Calamari with Black Beans and Chiles
1 pound cleaned squid
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 – 2 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup shredded ginger
1 bunch sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salted Chinese black beans
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
splash sesame oil
Cut the squid bodies into 1 inch rings. If the tentacles are large, cut them in half.
Bring a large pot of water to a furious boil, drop squid in, bring the water back to a boil and cook for 30 seconds. Remove and quickly run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
Mix the chicken stock, sugar, oyster sauce and soy sauce.
Heat a wok until a drop of water skitters across the surface. Add the oil, then toss in ginger, scallions, garlic, red pepper flakes and black beans and toss about for 30 seconds or so until the fragrance fills the air.
Add the chicken stock mixture, bring to a boil, and cook for about a minute. Add squid and wine, toss about for another minute and add a splash of sesame oil.
A friend showed up for dinner last night with a bag of weeds she'd just removed from her garden. To farmers and gardeners, lambsquarters are a nuisance, an intractable weed. For the rest of us however, this is spinach with a college education, the most delicious green. If you're lucky enough to find some, here's a vaguely Korean way of cooking this wonderful weed.
Wash a big bunch of wild lambsquarters, removing the thick stems. (I didn't weigh mine, but I'd estimate it was about three quarters of a pound.) Quickly blanch them in boiling salted water for about a minute, then run them under cold water to stop the cooking and set the color.
Squeeze the leaves well to remove excess water. Now do it again. Put them into a bowl, and fluff them a bit, pulling the leaves apart and giving them some air.
Thinly slice an entire scallion and mix it into the lambsquarters.
Put a couple of tablespoons of miso paste into a small bowl and mix in a small minced clove of garlic, a splash of soy sauce, a half teaspoon of chile paste and a splash of toasted sesame oil. Mix into the lambsquarters. If you want to really give it a Korean flair, toss in a small handful of sesame seeds.
"The only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you're afraid of it."
Lulu's Cheese Souffle
Grate 6 ounces of a cheese with strong character (Gruyere, Comte, Roquefort are all good choices) and set aside.
Scald a cup and a quarter of milk and set aside to gently cool.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour and cook for a a couple of minutes, whisking constantly. Whisk in the warm milk, season with a half teaspoon of salt, a sprinkle of pepper and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg, turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes or so, whisking every couple of minutes. The sauce will get very thick. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile carefully separate 4 eggs, being careful to put the whites into a clean bowl and not get any of the yolk into the whites.
Butter a 6-cup souffle dish and lightly dust with flour.
Preheat the oven to 425.
Carefully whisk the cheese and egg yolks into the sauce.
Beat the egg whites with clean beaters until they hold soft peaks. Stir about a third of them into the cheese sauce, to lighten it, then carefully fold in the remaining whites.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared souffle dish and put into the oven for about 25 minutes, until set and golden.
On the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, I offer another classic Recipe for Rationing, circa 1944.
Little wonder that the heroine of Delicious!, Lulu Swan, was writing to James Beard asking for better recipes. This isn't Mexican, it wouldn't make much of a supper – and I very much doubt that the sliced stuffed olives would have helped.
1 cup milk 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup Grape-Nuts Wheat-Meal 3/4 cup grated American cheese 1 egg, well beaten Spanish Sauce Paprika
Heat milk in saucepan. Add salt; then pour in cereal very gradually, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook and stir 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup cheese and egg and blend. Pour into shallow pan. Chill. Place spoonfuls or 2-inch squares in shallow baking dish and cover with Spanish Sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and paprika. Bake in hot oven (400° F.) 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Spanish Sauce. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons fat in skillet. Add 3 tablespoons each chopped onion, green pepper, and celery. Cook slowly until onion is golden brown. Add 1 1/2 cups stewed tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and dash of pepper. Cook slowly until sauce is thickened. If desired, add a few sliced stuffed olives to sauce.