Baby Calamari with Fennel & Spinach
This Baby Calamari with Fennel & Spinach is a quick and easy recipe, based on a more traditional, long-cooking Greek one. Cuttlefish can also be used, but like squid either needs long slow braising or quick flash cooking. Both were popular in classical times and were also studied in classical zoology, especially their ability to change colour for camouflage and eject ink to screen themselves from predators. Preparation has changed little since classical times but I like to ensure tenderness by scoring the flesh.
Serves 4 as part of a meze
Preparation 10 minutes
Cooking 5 minutes
1 small (200g) fennel, trimmed with green tops reserved
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g fresh baby squid or calamari
150 – 200g baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons (40ml) white wine (optional)
Lemon cheeks, to serve
Crusty bread, (optional) to serve
- To prepare the fennel: Quarter the trimmed bulb and trim and discard the core. Slice each quarter very thinly.
- Heat 2 tablespoons (40ml) oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. Add fennel and red onion and cook for a minute before adding garlic. Continue cooking for a further 2 -3 minutes or until softened and fragrant.
- Meanwhile prepare the calamari: Cut the tentacles from the hoods and reserve, remove the heads and carefully extract and discard the insides and backbones. If necessary salt your fingers and rub off skin. Using a sharp knife, cut off the wings, cut the hood lengthwise, lay flat on the chopping board and score the insides in a criss-cross pattern. Slice into four pieces. Pat all pieces and tentacles very dry with paper towel.
- Increase heat to high. Move fennel mixture to the side of the pan and add remaining tablespoon of oil. Add calamari and toss for 30 seconds or until opaque and just cooked. Add spinach and stir until just wilted. If desired add wine too as it will help the spinach wilt. Once the wine boils, remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and scatter with fennel fronds.
- Serve immediately with lemon cheeks and crusty bread.
Lyndey’s Note: When preparing fennel, never discard the green fronds (also known as fennel tops) as they taste just like dill and when roughly chopped add a lovely aniseed flavor to salads and stews as well as any fish recipe.
Greek Mezze Plate