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Garlic Calamari

Very early in the process of developing a no nightshade red sauce, I came across this Bon Appétit recipe for simple shrimp in a garlicky red sauce. With tomatoes, natch.

During this particular round of recipe prospecting I knew I couldn’t make anything I was looking at, but I was searching for ideas: red sauce themes and concepts that would help me better understand what exactly I was trying to recreate. (There is a fundamental, meta-phenomenological challenge of creating flavors that you can’t actually experience anymore.)

I really liked the idea of beans and red sauce—pasta e fagioli!—and the addition of a mess of garlic and seafood put it over the top. Though I’d never eaten anything quite like it I printed the recipe out and slipped it into my folder of long-shot ideas. I wasn’t sure I would ever find a way to make this, but no way I was going to give up.

And there was something else: this felt like a really good test recipe. If I could swap in whatever no-nightshade frankensauce I had created, and it worked in this particular recipe, I might be on to something special.

Fast forward a couple of years. By this time I had a red sauce that I liked and had been using for a while. It worked very well for pizza and lasagna, but it didn’t work here, in the garlic/calamari equation. It definitely didn’t work for the Asian recipes.

But finally, in the summer of 2019, I made my first batch of beetuto, and I knew I wanted to test this Garlic Calamari recipe. I was 1500 miles from home and my recipe files, but this is the one I wanted to try.

And it works. You can do a straight-up substitution with the original if you desire. I’ve made some tweaks with this recipe so it’s not just a simple swap anymore. I’m okay with either. Things change, and that’s ultimately the nature of cuisine.

INGREDIENTS

  • Olive oil for sauté
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon Grains of Paradise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups beetuto
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 veggie bouillon
  • 1 pound of calamari or mixed seafood
  • 2 cubes Bright
  • 1 teaspoon Mediterranean oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1In a large skillet, add a dollop of oil and set to medium heat. Add the onion to begin sauté, then after a few minutes add the crushed garlic. Make sure it doesn’t get so hot as to singe the garlic. When the onions are mostly on their way to translucent add smoked black pepper, sumac, and Grains of Paradise.

2Turn up the heat a touch and then give it a few moments to bind the spices, oil, and onion. Then add the beetuto, the white beans, and the veggie bouillon.

3Bring everything to a light simmer then reduce the heat and continue to simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning during this time.

4Add the calamari as is — fresh or frozen — to the mixture. (Squid is exquisite, but mixed seafood bags are also available and work very nicely here.) Once the seafood is mixed in, toss in the Bright, then cover and simmer gently for five minutes or so until the seafood is cooked. Adjust the liquid—but not until after you add the seafood, which will bring an unknown quantity of water to the mix.

5Serve over rice or pasta, or with very hearty bread. (Alright, a baguette works fabulously here too. Just thinking about your fiber intake.)

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