Saturday, September 27, 2014


Paella from the dark side, with squid ink.

I couldn’t leave the squid chronicles without making one of my favorite recipes—arroz negro—a sort of paella with squid and other shellfish in which the rice is tinted black with squid ink.

Sachets of cuttlefish ink.

Last week I was unhappy with my rendition of Squid in Its Own Ink—not black enough. So this time, I bought several packets of frozen cuttlefish ink to add to the ink from the squid. Each sachet contains 4 grams (0.14 ounce) of ink with a thickening agent, so it squeezes out like a ghastly black gel. It did the trick. This rice was black!

Apparently, black rice isn’t always colored with ink. Back in 1995, when I got my first computer modem, I soon logged on to CompuServe’s Spanish Forum, Food and Wine section, and met—on line—quite a few people who shared my interests in Spanish cooking. Jordi, a Catalan, was one. He was a great source of recipes.

Jordi wrote with passion about how Catalan black rice was not made with ink, but with great patience in making the sofrito, the slow, slow “frying” of onions, garlic and tomatoes--until the point “you’re scared they’re going to burn.” Then you add a little water and repeat the process, over and over, until the sofrito is nearly black. His version of black rice includes, besides squid (but no ink), chicken, pork ribs and jumbo shrimp.

Pour red or rosé wine with this rice and shellfish dish.

I like Jordi’s black rice, yet here I include a version typical of Valencia and Alicante--with the black ink to color the rice. In it’s original version, the rice is made with tiny cuttlefish, sautéed whole, which release their ink in cooking. However, the dish is much more likely to be made with squid because it’s so widely available.

This rice dish can be made in a paella pan or a cazuela. The procedure is similar to that for making paella. Use white paella rice, a round, medium-short grain, or substitute Italian arborio.

Arroz Negro con Calamares y Mariscos
Black Rice with Squid and Shellfish

Serves 6-8 as a starter or 4 as a main dish.

Ingredients for black rice.
12 mussels, scrubbed and steamed open, liquid reserved
5 cups fish or shellfish stock
1 large squid (3/4 pound) or 6-8 small ones
3-4 sachets of cuttlefish ink
½ pound monkfish fillets
¼  cup olive oil
6 whole jumbo shrimp
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons pimentón
2 cups Spanish medium-short grain rice
Salt and pepper
Alioli (garlic sauce), to serve

Discard empty mussel shells. Reserve mussels. Strain the liquid and add it to the fish stock. Place the fish stock in a pan ready to be heated.

Clean the squid, reserving the ink sacs, tentacles and wing flaps. If using large squid, cut the body pouch into rings. Leave small ones whole. Pat the squid dry on paper towels.

Put the ink sacs from the squid in a small bowl and add ¼ cup of water to it. Mash the ink sac to release the ink. Squeeze in the contents of ink sachets, if using. Set aside.

Cut the monkfish into 1 ½ -inch chunks.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch cazuela or paella pan until quite hot. Sauté the shrimp, about 2 minutes per side, until they are pink and slightly curled. Remove the shrimp and reserve them.

Add the squid and their tentacles and wings to the oil and sauté for 2 minutes. (Take care, as the squid is likely to spatter in the oil.) Then add the onion and garlic. Continue cooking on a high heat.

Add the pieces of monkfish and cook another minute on a high heat. Then stir in the tomatoes and pimentón. Continue cooking 5 minutes more.

Bring the reserved stock to a boil.

Stir the rice into the cazuela and cook 1 minute. Then stir in 4 cups of boiling fish broth. Cook 5 minutes on a high heat.

Use a small sieve to strain the ink mixture into the rice. Stir to mix it well. Lower the heat and cook the rice 10 minutes more. Add the remaining cup of stock. Arrange the cooked mussels and shrimp on the top of the rice. Don’t stir it again. Cook 5 minutes more.

Remove from heat and allow to rest 10 minutes. The rice continues to cook from the heat of the cazuela.

Serve the rice with alioli garlic sauce.

Serve the black rice with alioli (garlic mayonnaise).

Garlic Mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg, at room temperature
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½  teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Put the garlic and egg in a blender and pulse until garlic is finely chopped. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a slow trickle, allowing it to be absorbed by the egg before adding more. Blend in all the oil. The sauce will emulsify and thicken. Blend in the salt and lemon juice.

The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days. Makes 1 cup of sauce.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Squid in its own ink.

Last week I gave you “Squid Stuffed With Meat,” a felicitous stand-in for stuffed peppers. In the how-to-clean-squid bit, I showed how to remove the squid’s ink sac, noting that “the ink is not required for this recipe.”  I saved the ink in the freezer.

When this week I found small, baby squid, called chipirones, at the market, I was inspired to continue the squid adventure and make that wonderful Basque dish, chipirones en su tinta—squid in its own ink.

When I was still a high school student in Illinois, my parents made a trip to Spain and returned with many tales to tell, including one about eating squid served in its own ink. Squid? Oh, gross. In black ink sauce? Weird.

Years later when I found “squid in its own ink” on a restaurant menu, with a sense of adventure, I ordered it. It became my second favorite dish when eating out (favorite was txangurro, spider crab cooked in its shell). This was at a Basque restaurant in the village where I live in southern Spain. I later wheedled the recipe out of the gran dama in the kitchen, Doña Pía.

Doña Pia was built like a top—of large girth, with tiny feet and a tiny knot of a bun on top. She would sit in the kitchen with her feet up on a stool and command operations all around her. (A telling tale about Basque women: When one day the devil decided he wanted to learn the notoriously difficult Basque language, he hid himself behind the door in a Basque kitchen to listen. At the end of a whole year, he had learned two words in Basque, “Yes, ma’am.”)

This week’s version of squid in ink sauce wasn’t quite perfect. I had too much sauce (sofrito of onion and tomato) for the amount of ink, so it didn’t have that deep, glossy black color, even with the addition of the ink saved in the freezer. But, it tasted just fine. The ten-year-old at the table said, “Yeah, looks like dolphin barf!” and ate two helpings.

Squid in ink sauce, traditionally served in a cazuela.

Squid in black ink sauce is a really hard dish to photograph! As it’s traditionally served, in a terra cotta cazuela, the squid just look like lumps submerged in black tar. So, I tried to have some fun with it, trying different color contrasts.

Contrast: black sauce, white squid, red peppers.

Add white rice to the sauce. More contrast, in texture too.

Squid in Its Own Ink
Chipirones en Su Tinta

In the late summer, baby squid, measuring two to three inches, come into the market. In Andalusia they are usually floured and fried whole or grilled on an oiled griddle and served sprinkled with olive oil, garlic and parsley. In the Basque Country they are cooked in a sauce colored black with their own ink. This dish also can be made with large squid. In that case the body pouch is opened up and cut into three-inch squares.

Serve the squid with triangles of bread fried in olive oil or with scoops of white rice.

Serves six as a tapa or two as a main course.

Small squid.
2 dozen 3-inch squid, about 1 1/4 pounds
1 ounce chopped serrano ham
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig of parsley
1 onion, cut in several pieces
2 tomatoes (12 ounces)

Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
1/4 cup white wine

Clean the squid. Pull the head and tentacles gently out from the body pouch. The innards will come away with the head.

On the innards is a tiny silver sac which contains the ink. Separate it carefully.

Crush the ink sacs and add water.

Next cut off the tentacles just above the eyes. Save the tentacles. Discard the head and innards.

Pull out the transparent cartilage from inside the body pouch and discard it. Pull the fins off the body and save them. Pull off and discard the skin.

Poke the tip of the squid with a fingertip and turn it inside-out, rolling it down over your finger like a---ok, you get the picture. Wash the squid, drain and pat dry. (Leave it inside-out.)
Wash and drain the tentacles and fins. Pat them dry. Chop them coarsely. Combine the chopped tentacles and chopped ham.

Squid cleaned and ready for cooking.

Stuff the body pouches with the chopped mixture, using a finger to poke the stuffing in. Pinch the opening closed (does not need a toothpick).

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet. Fry the squid in two or three batches, adding an additional tablespoon of oil after the first batch is fried. Turn the squid in the oil until golden on all sides. They do not need to be crisp. (You may want to dust the squid with flour before frying. The coating of flour helps to prevent them from spattering in the oil.) Remove the squid to a cazuela.

In a food processor, chop the garlic and parsley. Add the onion and process until finely chopped.

Wipe out the skillet. Add the remaining oil to the pan. Sauté the chopped onion mixture until onion is softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

While onion is cooking, chop the tomato in the processor. Add the tomato to the skillet. Cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes, until tomatoes have sweated out their liquid. Season with salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and pepper. Add the brandy, if using, and continue cooking, stirring frequently. Let the mixture just begin to thicken and stick, then add 1/4 cup of water. Cook for 20 minutes. Sieve the sauce and return it to the pan.

Using the back of a spoon, crush the ink sacs reserved in the bowl. Press it through a fine sieve (such as a tea strainer) into the sauce. Add the wine. Stir and cook five minutes. If sauce is too thick, add a little water.

Pour the sauce over the squid in the cazuela. Heat thoroughly, about 5 minutes.

White Rice
Arroz Blanco

Makes 10 ½-cup servings.

3 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cups medium-short grain rice
Olive oil to grease mold

Place the water, olive oil, salt and bay leaf in a pan and bring the water to a boil. Add the rice. Bring again to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat without uncovering and let the rice rest for eight minutes. Fluff it with a fork.

Spoon the rice into an oiled ½ -cup measure, packing it slightly. Unmold onto plates.

Would you like more cephalopods? We can segue right into octopus and cuttlefish and continue the inky adventure. Let me know! 



Saturday, September 13, 2014


Stuffed squid in tomato sauce.

My crop of bell peppers was so disappointing this year. I grow peppers just for making my favorite stuffed pepper recipe. Sure, I could buy them, but something else stuffable caught my eye at the market. Squid!

Squid--perfect pouches for stuffing.
The squid’s cylindrical body pouch makes it ideal for stuffing. What’s in the stuffing? I like the ground-meat stuffing that I learned from village cooks years ago. But, the stuffing could be of tuna or other fish; of chopped egg and bread crumbs, of cooked rice.

I’m also partial to fresh tomato sauce, so appropriate this time of year. However, almond-garlic sauce is also used for stuffed squid.

Use this meat stuffing for stuffing peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, onions or just for making meatballs. The chopped tentacles and wing flaps of the squid give the stuffing mixture complexity.

Tender squid, meat stuffing, tomato sauce.

Calamares Rellenos
Stuffed Squid

To skin the fresh plum tomatoes, I pop them in the microwave. Then I puree them coarsely in a blender for the sauce. I use a mini-food processor to finely chop the onions.

The squid are good served with rice, pasta or patatas fritas, Spanish fries.

Serves 4.

2 pounds whole squid (4 large, 6 medium or 8 small)
1 thick slice bread, crusts removed
1 egg, beaten
1 ounce serrano ham, chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts
12 ounces ground meat (pork and beef mixed)
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cloves minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
Grating of fresh nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
½ cup white wine
Roasted red peppers or canned piquillo peppers

Prepare the squid for stuffing. Pull off the fin flaps and reserve them. Gently pull the head and tentacles out of the body pouch.

 Cut off the tentacles above the eyes and reserve the tentacles. Discard the rest of the innards. 

Ink sac, located on the innards.

The ink sac, a silvery strip on the innards, is not required for this recipe.

Quills look like plastic strips.

Grasp the top of the quill, the squid’s cartilage stiffener—it looks like a strip of clear plastic—pull it out and discard it.

Pull off skin.

Pull off the dark skin on the body pouch and clean out the insides. Wash the pouch. Remove dark skin from fins as well. The squid is now ready for proceeding with the recipe.

Soak the slice of bread in water to cover until it is softened. Squeeze out the water and crumble the bread into a bowl. Add the beaten egg, chopped ham and pine nuts.

Chop the squid tentacles and fins and add to the bowl. Add the ground meat, chopped cooked egg, parsley, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. Combine thoroughly with a fork. Use this mixture to stuff the squid body pouches.

Stuffed and ready to cook.

Close them with toothpicks and dust them lightly with flour (flour helps to prevent oil from splattering when frying). Use any remaining stuffing mixture to make meatballs.

Heat the oil in a cazuela or pan. Brown the squid lightly on all sides. Remove them to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until it begins to brown. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, wine and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the stuffed squid (and meatballs) to the pan with strips of roasted red pepper. Cover partially and simmer 30 minutes. Turn the squid over and cook 30 minutes more. (Test one of the meatballs for doneness. Avoid piercing the squid pouches—they’ll shoot juice like a geyser!)

Remove toothpicks from squid before serving. Large squid can be sliced crosswise. 

Squid stuffed with meat.

Squid served with a mound of white rice.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


We were five at table for lunch, all us semi-professional eaters—cooks, food writers, restaurant critics and guides. (See, I totally avoided saying “foodies.”) Málaga food mavens.

Our leader was Shawn Hennessey, she of Sevilla Tapas (I wrote about Shawn and Sevilla tapas here ), who was spending a week in Málaga. Shawn brought us together and chose a venue. (I had balked at going all the way to Málaga to eat sushi, so it had to be Spanish or, anyway, “Spanish.”)

Here I am at lunch with new friends, from left, Andrew Forbes , travel writer and communications consultant ; Victor Garrido, Málaga guide, and Fred Shively, photographer . Shawn Hennessey took the photo.
So, here we were at El Tres, which bills itself as “alta cocina clásica,” a mash-up of Spanish, Basque and French, right in the center of Málaga—not a tapas bar, but a proper restaurant (wonderfully comfortable chairs and welcome air conditioning on a blazing-hot day), part of Grupo Gorki which has several restaurants and bars in Málaga.

Presented with the carta, the menu, we dithered. For €47 per head (including wine), we could have a nine-course tasting menu. Or, we could exercise choice, with a la carte starters ranging from €12 to €23 and mains from €18 to €28. Many of the a la carte choices offered the option of media-ración, a half-serving.

A tasting menu is a good way to get to know a restaurant’s specialties. But, then you are locked in to what the chef wants you to eat. Shawn, who has plenty of dining-out experience, solved the dilemma—we ordered half-portions of eight different dishes on the a la carte menu—three starters, five mains—and split each of them between five of us (Shawn is an expert at divving up portions), providing a generous bite of each.

Here’s what was for lunch.

Porra antequerana
Two taste-teasers—a classic porra antequerana, sort of thick gazpacho cream with garnishes of chopped egg and ham, and a leek terrine with a smear of monkfish liver pâté and parmesan cream.

Porra is very similar to salmorejo, a Córdoba dish. Someone asked me, "what's the difference?" I don't rightly know. (My recipe for salmorejo is  here.)

Smoked eel terrine--divine.

Starter. Silky and rich, smoked eel terrine layered with sweet williams pears. Gorgeous. Best-liked dish by all of us, even Andrew who claimed he wouldn’t eat eel! Of course, we were famished and our palates were fresh.

Vegetable menestra.

Starter. Menestra de verduras con velouté of jamón ibérico, a vegetable melange, each one cooked to crisp perfection, with the unctuous ibérico ham as garnish.

Smoky rice with octopus and rabbit.

Starter. Arroz meloso de conejo y pulpo de roca al sarmiento (rice with rabbit and octopus, smoked over vine shoots). This was my favorite dish of all. Meloso rice has a juicy, creamy texture, somewhat like risotto. The smokiness brought together the mar y montaña—sea and mountain—of pairing octopus with rabbit.

Hake in green sauce with clams.
Entrée. Merluza de pincho en salsa verde, almejas y patatas confitadas (line-caught hake in green sauce, clams and confit potatoes). My second favorite dish—a classic rendition of a Basque dish (my recipe for this dish appears here.

Monkfish with artichoke.
Entrée. Rape envuelto en guanciale con crema de cangrejos y alcachofas (monkfish wrapped in cured pork cheek with crab cream and artichokes). The sauce was based on a traditional Málaga dish, with ground almonds as a thickener. Monkfish is a “toothsome” fish, as chewy as meat. The cured pork made it unusual.

Juan José López prepares steak tartare.

Entrée. Steak tartar de solomillo de ternera gallega (steak tartare made with Galician beef, prepared tableside). Classic.Galician beef is the finest.

Shawn snaps the steak tartar and tweets it to the world. (Follow her on Twitter @SevillaTapas.)

One bite--crispy roast pig.

Entrée.  Cochinillo con su piel crujiente y confitura de manzana (suckling pig with crispy skin and apple confit). Succulent. Time to switch to red wine!

Squab with carrot purée.
Entrée. Pichón deshuesado con puré de zanahoria y tostada de higaditos (boned squab with carrot purée and toasts topped with livers). Loved this, my third favorite.

The chef at El Tres is a young malagueña, Rosa Serrano, who has been in the kitchen since the restaurant opened in April.

Our made-to-order tasting menu worked fine. Enough food and a wonderful variety of tastes. Personally, one bite of steak tartare was enough. I’d rather have my beef with nothing. And, I could happily have eaten much more of the hake in green sauce and the squab with carrot purée. Good reason to return to El Tres.

El Tres
Calle Strachan 7; Málaga center
(34) 952 22 33 64
Open for lunch and dinner; closed Sunday.

One bite--smoky rice with octopus and rabbit.
One bite--flaky hake in green sauce with clam and potato.
One bite--menestra of vegetables with ham.