Calamari fritti (Calamares fritos in Spanish) or squid rings were among the best things I tasted during a month of travel in Spain, but in Italy calamari are usually served whole either grilled or fried with a wedge of lemon for company. I was mucho disappointed.
Occasionally a fish soup or similar type dish offered calamari in rings in a tomato and white wine sauce which was always good but not as satisfying as the Spanish version. (I expect a reaction from any Italian reading this who was brought up to believe that Italian food is better than Spanish. Is it really? Just go there and then decide OK?)
I decided to cook the Italian version with white wine and cherry tomatoes so I set out for the market to procure some squid. I was disappointed to see them at 10 Euro a kilo, when in winter they had been at just 5.
The preparation is simple: the squid’s head must be ripped from the body and all but the tentacles discarded. The head must be then chopped between the tentacles and the weird eyes, taking care to remove the jaw bone which is in the middle. Next the body is cut open and everything inside is removed, including the long backbone. Now you’re ready to slice it into whatever size or shape your imagination desires.
Fry some garlic for 3 minutes in olive oil, add white wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate, add cherry tomatoes (I use about 5 per calamaro), add the unfortunate looking squid, turn up the heat to boil for a minute then back down to a simmer. Add salt, parsley and black pepper if desired. Taste and see that the Lord is good! Get it right in the pot before going to the plate!
Sundried tomatoes are nothing new in Ireland but I notice that not many people eat them. When I bought a packet there I remember the instructions suggested I place them in a bowl of water for half an hour. I mentioned this to some Italians and there was a chorus of no’s to deafen an emo.
Instead they should be ‘washed’ for three minutes under running water and placed sotto olio.
While in the stunningly beautiful, but overly tourist inhabited Marzamemi, on the advice of a well informed local food lover, I purchased some sun dried cherry tomatoes. I knew I was in for a taste explosion. When I told another local what I had bought he gave me a knowing look that confirmed my suspicions.
Back at base a few days later I set about preparing them the Italian way. First I rinsed the tiny tomatoes under running water then poured about a cup of good olive oil into a bowl and added peperoncino, oregano, chopped garlic and basil. The recipe called also for mint but I thought this a bit like overkill. I let all sit in the fridge for a few hours.
They were spectacular! More time soaking in oil may improve the taste but sometimes the oil may ‘harden’ around them. They are best eaten on a piece of freshly baked bread where the taste really comes through.
One of the odd looking statues without heads to be found around Catania.
John P Brady writes fiction, articles and a blog about life in Italy, where he has chosen to make his home. His first book, a collection, entitled Back to the Gaff has been recently published by Roadside Fiction. It concerns the wild happenings in Dublin by night and documents the attitudes of the youth in modern Irish society. Keep up to date with his writing by subscribing:
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Back to the Gaff
Scandalous Narratives of Contemporary Ireland
Back to the Gaff is a book by new author John P Brady, which describes the excessive and outrageous nature of Irish night life. Meet an array of eccentric individuals who populate the bars of Dublin, living lives of decadence and abandon. Their frolics inevitably lead to a trip ‘back to the gaff,’ which in Dublin-speak means gravitating towards someone’s place of residence where the depravity continues.
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