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Gary's Monterey Marinated Squid

I've been going to Monterey, California for a number of years: From the north, Monterey is a gateway to Big Sur and the legends of Henry Miller and the 60's Hippy Era. From the south you travel through Big Sur and Carmel to reach it.

In Monterey, after the world-class aquarium, a must stop is the pier. It's gotten touristy now, but the marinated squid, which almost every vendor sells, remains a constant draw for me.

Monterey was quite possibly the squid-catching capital of the world. Italian immigrants were the premier fishermen in the region and made a good living from harvesting the abundant squid that lived in the cold and abundantly plentiful Monterey peninsula. As is the case of Catalina - where Zane Grey in the 1930's regularly caught many swordfish which now are a distant memory - Monterey is no longer blessed with an abundance of squid. However, a portion of what squid remains makes it to the pier in a marinated form which wonderfully differs in taste and constitution from vendor to vendor.

Squid is an important ingredient in many Northern and Southern Italian recipes. I remember having dinner with an art historian who had just returned from a sabbatical in Florence, Italy. His wife - a second generation Italian with Southern Italian roots - cooked us a regional dish of squid stuffed with a pesto and cheese filling. Now, I am also a half-Italian with roots in the Naples region of Italy and with an uncle who taught in Perrugia. But looking at the stuffed squid with its translucent white body and the greenish-tinged filling peeking through the casing made me wish I were having dinner anywhere but there; and I'm not the squeamish type. Well, I closed my eyes and dug in and the damned dish really tasted good; and it taught me that when experiencing food, every sensory modality is important. Happily, the experience didn't turn me off to squid. Apologies to my hostess.

Squid is a mollusk. One of the most important lessons in cooking squid is to cook it for the right length of time. Cook it for less than four minutes and it will be tender and succulent. Miss the four minute mark and unless you cook it for over fifteen minutes, it will have the consistency of shoe leather.

I have evolved the following recipe by a process of tasting the many marinated squid concoctions on the pier and coming up with my own second-generation-Italian variation. The measurements are not exact. As my Italian grandmother taught me - taste and adjust.

My marinated squid tastes great and instantly brings me back to Monterey. You can purchase frozen squid in most large supermarkets.

The Recipe

The easiest way to start is to buy cleaned squid. You will find it separated into tentacles and body. Leave the tentacles intact and slice the body into 1/4" oval rings. If you buy fresh or frozen uncleaned squid, you will need to clean it. This is quite easy. The International Squid Cookbook by Isaac Cronin (Aris Books, Berkeley, 1981) gives a particularly easy way to accomplish the task. Squeeze out the beak. Then pull the head with tentacles from the body. Then remove the quill and clean out the innards. If you are squeamish, purchase your squid cleaned. Note that approximately 3 pounds of raw squid yields approximately 2 pounds of cleaned squid.

Now for the recipe:

1 lb cleaned squid tentacles and body cut into 1/4" rings.

Place into boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool.

In a bowl combine the following:

6 scallions, chopped
3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
1/2 sweet red onion, finely chopped
2 TBS olive oil
1 lemon fresh squeezed
1 TSP red wine vinegar
pinch oregano
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
salt to taste

Add the squid and mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate for four hours and enjoy!

©2003 Gary Fisher

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