People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
07/01/2002 Pasta with red peppers and small grilled squid (Pâtes aux poivrons rouges et aux petits encornets grillés)
For 4 servings:
Home-made pasta for 4 (see recipe for pasta with chanterelles, summer squash, and their blossoms) or 12 oz. good quality Italian fettucine or penne
6T. extra virgin olive oil 6 large garlic cloves 1/2 t. ground piment d'Espelette or ground ancho chile 2 lbs. small fresh squid, 4-6" long including tentacles 2 small red onions 2 large ripe bell peppers 6 large Roma tomatoes Sea salt Chopped flat-leafed parsley and fresh basil 2 T. unsalted butter
Prepare the pasta if making it by hand.
Clean the squids. This is a laborious job but worth the exquisite result. First, cut the tentacle cluster off just above the eyes, reserving it. Cut or pull off the head, the slit the body lengthwise. Remove everything on the inside: the gelatinous stuff as well as the thin cartilaginous "bone." Turn the body over, skin side up, and scraping with the edge of your knife, peel off the thin skin (easy to do). Rinse the body and add to the tentacles. After all have been cleaned, toss them with 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the red pepper, and two garlic cloves put through a press. Let them marinate at room temperature while you prepare a wood or charcoal fire as well as the sauce.
For the sauce, first peel the tomatoes by dipping them in boiling water to loosen the skins. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds with your finger. Chop them roughly and set aside.
In a large nonreactive sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and slowly cook the onions, without letting them color. When they are almost fully tender, add the remaining garlic, chopped. Cook a couple of minutes. Seed and core the peppers and cut into strips about 1/2 x 1 1/2". Toss them into the pan along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon red pepper and saute for several minutes. Then add the tomatoes and some sea salt. Cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and cook, covered, for 7 minutes. Then uncover the pan and cook another 10 minutes. The peppers should be soft and the sauce chunky and thick. Toss in the herbs and remove from the heat. Correct the seasoning.
Heat water to cook the pasta. Depending on whether you are using fresh homemade or dry storebought pasta, coordinate its cooking so it will be ready at the same time as the squid. Heat a generous pasta bowl with the butter in the oven. Put the squid in a fine-mesh fish grill and grill over a hot fire, turning once. They will only take about 4 minutes to cook. Toss together all ingredients in the warmed bowl with the butter and serve right away. No cheese, please!
This a wonderful pasta with a symphony of textures and flavors that are perfectly complementary. The slight heat of the red pepper underscores the sweetness of the bell peppers, which together with the tomatoes and herbs, are the perfect foil for the sweetly succulent, smoky morsels of squid.