Jose Duarte’s Spring Squid Ceviche

Calamari Season!

While woody Chilean strawberries continue to mock the seasons from their shelves in large chain grocery stores, more and more farmers are tilling local soil. More and more farmers’ markets are setting up on town greens and in parking lots allowing us to purchase local, seasonal food. The principle of eating from the calendar, eating seasonal local foods, has thankfully, at least in some communities, survived big supermarket’s grip.

Not so much for fish.

Rarely anymore does a fish market or the fish counter of a grocery store reflect what is seasonal and local. Most fish markets fill their cases with haddock, cod, Chilean sea bass, tuna, swordfish, and some shrimp and oysters all year long. Almost never do we feel either the absence of a fish out of season or the arrival of a fish in season because there is always Norway, Iceland, and Southeast Asia to fill the gaps. The local food movement is leagues ahead of the fish local movement, but the same principles apply.

In southern New England, late April – early May is squid season, as regular as lilacs. New England fishermen say that when the buds pop out on the trees the squid “come in,” and all the fish follow. Longfin Inshore Squid (Doryteuthis pealeii also known as Loligo pealeii) spend their winters in deeper waters along the edge of the Continental Shelf. Their arrival inshore – they come to spawn – marks the start of spring for those living close to the Nantucket Sound waters. For the fishermen, the squid are like the gunshot in the air declaring the start of the year’s fishing season.

In Nantucket Sound in early May, if the fishermen they aren’t landing squid they are landing fluke with bellies and mouths full of squid.

It’s described as “a sweet time,” because everything is coming in from off shore or coming North. The water temperatures are up. The Cape Cod and Rhode Island boats all head to Nantucket Sound, because the squid have arrived there, and with them everything else.

 

Jose Duarte’s Spring Squid Ceviche

With local spring ramps from the Boston Public Market and traditional Peruvian ingredients, chef Jose Duarte created a May in Boston edition of  “leche de tigre,” the classic Peruvian ceviche classically made with lime, salt, onion and garlic.  The cool freshness, the brightness of the sauce over the creamy squid makes this a winning dish for even squid-squeamish; sweet potato, a sweet, earthy counterpoint to the verdant sauce, confirms the win.  

“In Peru ceviche is cooked, marinated fish,” Duarte says, describing the process of flash scalding the squid as “scaring the squid.”  They are plunged into boiling water for just under a minute, then removed to an ice bath.  

No bow to Peruvian cuisine would be right without Ahi Amarillo, the Peruvian word for peppers, essential in that cuisine.  Peruvians have cultivated peppers for over 7000 years.  Over 300 types of chili peppers find their way into modern Peruvian dishes, but Ahi Amarillo, the Pervuian yellow pepper, is the most familiar.  

Duarte uses Ahi Amarillo Paste and Huacatay –  dried black mint paste, flags of his native land..  Ahi yellow peppers are a medium-to-high heat pepper with a unique fruity flavor.  Haucatay is a fragrant Pervuian herb described as a combination of basil, tarragon, mint, and lime.  They are difficult to substitute, and Duarte recommends you don’t.  The point of this dish is to frame this beautiful local squid in some Peruvian and New England tradition.  Both products can be found in ethnic grocery stores, and in some standard grocery stores with Brazilian ingredients.  

 

 

 

serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as an entree, is easily doubled

Ingredients

For the Squid

1 pound cleaned, skinned squid, body cut into 3/4” rings, legs whole

boiling salted water

ice bath

 

For the Sauce:

4 limes

3 teaspoons ahi paste

1 teaspoons black mint

2 spring ramps or small spring onions (1 ounce)

1 bunch cilantro, leaves only

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt

 

To Finish:

1/2 small red onion, diced

1 sweet potato, baked, allowed to cool (room temperature), peeled, and cut into cubes

2 tablespoons chopped roasted pecans (optional)

1 sliced radish to garnish

 

Instructions

  1. Clean squid, and cut into 3/4 “ rings, leaving tentacles intact.
  2.  Prepare ice bath beside boiling water.  Drop squid into boiling salted water for exactly 1 minute.  Remove immediately to ice bath.  After squid is cool, about 3 minutes, remove to paper towels and pat dry.
  3.  To make the sauce, put all the ingredients in a blender, and blend on high for 3 minutes, or until everything is highly processed.  Set aside.
  4.  Put squid in a medium bowl, and toss with diced onion.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of sauce at at time, and toss well.  Add more sauce to taste.
  5.  Serve squid in bowls or on small plates, placing cubes of sweet potato around.  Sprinkle pecans over all if desired, and scatter 3-4 radish slices around plate.  

About Frozen Fish:  Freezing can break down the cell structure in a fish.  The frozen liquid expands in the cell structure, slightly breaking down that structure.  When the  fish is defrosted, the water runs out.  Some suppleness is lost because your are left with mostly a connective-tissue like flesh, which results in either a mushy or tough texture.   Charles Draghi

 

 

To Prepare Squid:

  1. Lay your squid out beside each other on a cutting board.  They should be a beautiful gray-white-to pink color with no aroma.  Pick up the first squid, holding the body in one hand, and the tentacles in another.  Give a gentle tug, pulling the tentacles away from the body.  The guts should have pulled out of the body, remaining attached to the legs and tentacles.  
  2. Now you have the body and the legs and tentacles (with guts attached) in two parts.  Pick up the body, and remove anything left inside.  Feel the wider end of the body for the hard, plastic-feeling quill or pen, actually pointy at the end.  Find that, and give a tug.  The pen should pull right out of the body in one piece.  Discard.  
  3. There is a pink outer skin with flaps still on the squid body; simply pull that away and off, and discard.  The wings can be cut off at this point.  Reserve them.  
  4. The tentacle section is a length of parts:  guts (with ink sack within), eyes and then tentacles.  First cut off the tentacles right in front of the eyes.  Feel the top of the tentacles for a hard, white, 3/4” sphere.  That is the beak.  It pulls out easily with your fingers.  Remove and discard.

 

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