California Calamari With Eggplant Pasta

Calamari With Eggplant Pasta

Calamari With Eggplant Pasta

 

Before we moved to California, my husband and I visited Monterey and had the most amazing calamari at a restaurant out on the pier.  The waiter said that you can really only get good calamari when it is fresh and local.  He was right.  I’ve cooked calamari before but it never tasted that good.  But yesterday my grocery store in Berkeley was selling wild California squid for $1.99 a pound.  That’s right, $1.99 a pound.  The catch was that they were whole little squids, and you had to clean them yourself.  I thought, how hard can that be?  You can’t beat $1.99 a pound. 

 

The worst part was just how they looked – they were whole squids and you could see the eyes and of course the tentacles.  But if you can get past that, it is worth the effort.  They tasted so fresh it was as if they just came right out of the ocean.  And the best part is the texture – they were not tough or chewy like squid can be when it is not fresh.  Of course, if you don’t live near the coast, you may not be able to get such fresh wild sea fare, but if you do have the opportunity, I would highly recommend it.

 

How To Clean A Squid

 

I would have taken a picture, but it’s not a really pretty sight and I didn’t want to make you squeamish.  There is nothing like coming face to face with nature to make you appreciate that this wild animal gave its life for you.  Perhaps if every meat eater could actually see the animal that becomes their meal, we would all make better choices about where our meat comes from and not eat 2 or 3 times the amount that is actually healthy for our bodies.  But that is another story for another day.

 

First, you have to wash the squid.  Then, cut the tentacles off right below the eye.  The tentacles are totally edible, and are delicious, even though I know some people are too squeamish to eat them.  Then slide a knife inside the back of the tube to slice off the cartilage where the insides connect to the tube.  Pull out the insides (I know, gross, sorry:), peel off the skin, and rinse again.  Then slice into rings about 1/2-inch thick and set aside.  It’s really very simple.  However, if it’s unavailable to you and you really don’t want to do this, you can buy pre-cleaned squid and follow the same recipe.

 

Eggplant has recently appeared at the farmers’ market, and I snatched up some gorgeous-looking deep purple Italian eggplant this week as well as some bright red sun-ripened tomatoes, another recent arrival.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve also got this huge branch of fresh basil I needed to use up and this was the perfect excuse.

 

California Calamari With Eggplant Pasta

 

1/2 lb. cleaned squid

4 oz. brown rice pasta

2 small Japanese or Italian eggplant

3 T extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot

3-4 cloves garlic, pressed

2 ripe tomatoes or 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated

1 zucchini, sliced (or substitute your favorite vegetable)

1-2 T chopped kalamata olives

Fresh basil leaves

Mineral sea salt & cracked pepper

Grated sheep’s milk pecorino (optional)

 

Slice the eggplant lengthwise and into quarters.  Sprinkle with salt and set aside.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees F while bringing a pot of water to boil for the pasta.  While the pasta is cooking according to package directions, roast the eggplant, drizzled with olive oil, in the oven for 10-15 minutes.  Test with a fork for tenderness to see if it’s done. 

 

Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables.  Heat a large skillet and briefly saute the squid in olive oil until it turns opaque and white.  Remove from pan and set aside to preven over-cooking it.  Then saute the shallots, garlic and tomato, adding oil if necessary.  Add the zucchini or other fresh vegetables and a few tablespoons of water (or white wine) to gently steam.  Add the eggplant, cooked calamari and pasta to the skillet and toss with kalamata olives and fresh basil leaves just before turning off the heat.  Season with fresh cracked pepper, salt, and a little fresh grated sheep’s milk pecorino, if you can tolerate it.

 

Remember that pasta and tomato dishes tend to be rather acidic, (that’s why they taste so good!) so it’s always a good idea to serve it with a fresh salad to balance it out and help you digest better.  When in doubt, the more greens the better – and fresh raw salads are a good accompaniment to any meal.

 

Serves 2

 

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