Calamari Stew ♯

To English-speaking peoples, the word “squid” has a harsh sound that bodes against its efficacy as the name of an entity willingly to be ingested. Consequently, it is often marketed using the more euphonious Italian word calamari. Technically, squids and calamari are not exactly the same thing, but close enough for culinary purposes. They can be stuffed whole, cut into flat pieces, or sliced into rings and fried, baked, or stewed. The arms, tentacles, and ink are all used in various dishes. Only the beak and what I call the “squid-bone” (also called the pen, and, more technically, the gladius) are discarded. When used in stews, they stand as ideal candidates for meals fitting my gastronomic guidelines.

In the butcher’s case, they look like squid. I guess that’s why I don’t buy them as often as I probably should. But, when properly prepared, they taste so wonderful they deserve the more euphonious appellation, calamari. My recipe was concocted in mid-January, 2013—a cold, wintry evening* in Southern California. A bowl of this with a crust of bread and glass of Soave made me scold myself that I don’t prepare it more often.

  • 1 lb cleaned calamari, sliced in rings with tentacles chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 bunch red Swiss chard, ribs only,* chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large mushrooms, diced
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • ½ tsp aniseed
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp yeast extract (Marmite® or Vegemite®)
  • 1 tsp chicken consommé powder
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup Madeira wine
  • 3 oz low-glycemic-index pasta (ziti or rotelle)
  • ½ cup grated Asiago cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, celery, chard, garlic, and mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes until all are limp. Add the next ten ingredients, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by about half, stirring occasionally.

Add the calamari and bring the pot to a gentle simmer and retain the simmering for about an hour. Then test the calamari for doneness. If not done, continue to cook, checking every 15 minutes or so, until tender.

Add the Madeira wine and pasta, bring again to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes, or according to package directions, stirring occasionally.

<Salt> and pepper to taste, ladle into bowls, and top with a generous coating of Asiago cheese. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.