Spicy harissa chile paste gives our marinated Mediterranean calamari salad intense and unexpected flavor.
Chili-Marinated Calamari with Oranges
SERVES 6 to 8
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Calamari are well-suited to small plates because their mild flavor and pleasing chew are the perfect vehicle for a host of bold flavors. We set our sights on a fresh, aromatic, Spanish-inspired calamari salad. First, we needed to settle on a cooking method for the squid. After trying grilling, broiling, and sautéing, all of which resulted in overcooked, chewy squid, we settled on blanching the squid in boiling water. Soaking the raw squid in a brine of baking soda and salt tenderized the squid so that it was less likely to become rubbery when cooked. To ensure that both the bodies and tentacles were done at the same time, we added the thicker tentacles to the pot 30 seconds before adding the bodies. After blanching, we transferred the squid to an ice water bath to halt the cooking. We dressed the squid with a piquant mixture of tangy red wine vinegar and—looking to Spain’s North African neighbors—spicy harissa chile paste, an intense, aromatic blend of smoky chile peppers and spices. We tossed the squid with our dressing, stirring in pieces of orange, bell pepper, and celery for some contrasting flavors and textures. Marinating the salad in the fridge for at least an hour allowed the flavors to meld. Hazelnuts, stirred in just before serving, gave the salad some crunch. We prefer to use our homemade Harissa , but you can substitute store-bought harissa if you wish, though spiciness can vary greatly by brand. Be sure to use small squid (with bodies 3 to 4 inches in length) because they cook more quickly and are more tender than larger squid. For the best flavor and texture we recommend allowing the salad to marinate for the full 24 hours before serving.
2 tablespoons baking soda
Salt and pepper
2 pounds squid, bodies sliced crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rings, tentacles halved
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2½ tablespoons harissa
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
2 celery ribs, sliced thin on bias
1 shallot, sliced thin
⅓ cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1. Dissolve baking soda and 1 tablespoon salt in 3 cups cold water in large container. Submerge squid in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove squid from brine and separate bodies from tentacles.
2. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Fill large bowl with ice water. Add 2 tablespoons salt and tentacles to boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Add bodies and cook until bodies are firm and opaque throughout, about 90 seconds. Drain squid, transfer to ice water, and let sit until chilled, about 5 minutes.
3. Whisk oil, vinegar, harissa, garlic, mustard, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Drain squid well and add to bowl with dressing.
4. Cut away peel and pith from oranges. Quarter oranges, then slice crosswise into ½-inch-thick pieces. Add oranges, bell pepper, celery, and shallot to squid and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Stir in hazelnuts and mint and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
1.Check squid bodies to make sure plastic-like quill has been completely removed, then slice bodies crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rings.
2.Check tentacles to make sure the hard, sharp beak has been removed, then slice tentacles in half.