Recipe: grilled calamari salad

squid salad

And now for something completely different–the very first Sweetgumandpines recipe post, inspired by the longfin squid that we caught while on vacation in Maine. If you like fried calamari but have never had it grilled, you don’t know what you’re missing.  The subtly sweet taste of fresh squid goes really well with garlic, lemon, and the smoky flavor of a hot grill.

Ingredients:  Squid, lemons, olive oil, whole garlic cloves, dried red pepper flakes, sea salt, salad greens and other fresh vegetables (cucumber, tomatoes, etc.).


1. Obtain your squid.  If you aren’t in a position to catch your own, frozen squid is fine.  Look for whole squid, as cut rings will be difficult to grill.

2.  If you’re using fresh, whole squid, cut off the tentacles just behind the eyes.  Pop the beak out from the center of the ring of tentacles.  Remove the skin from the tubes, pull out the viscera and the gladius (a.k.a the pen, the vestigial shell that looks like a strip of plastic).  I sometimes find it easier to cut the tube into lengths 3-4 inches long and then flip the pieces inside out to clean.  Alternatively, you can slice the tube open along its length, which, if the squid are small, will also make it less likely to vanish between the bars of the grill.

3.  Mix equal volumes of freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil.  Add crushed, coarsely chopped garlic, a pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes. The amount of juice/oil  should be sufficient to completely coat all of the squid pieces.  For fifteen longfin squid 8-12 inches long, I used the juice of four lemons.  The number of garlic cloves is dependent on your preferences.  I am of the opinion that it is impossible to have too much garlic.

Marinate the squid for two or three hours in the refrigerator.

4.  Heat a charcoal or LP gas grill to high temperature and cook the squid for about two minutes.  Turn the squid, and cook for a minute or two longer.  The squid should shrink and become more opaque, but you don’t want to overcook.  Properly cooked squid is delicate and tender.  Overcooked squid is somewhere between rubber bands and jerky.

If the gaps between bars on the grill are wide enough that you risk losing the tentacles, lay down a sheet of aluminum foil smeared with olive oil, and cook the tentacles on top.

5.  Squeeze a little more fresh lemon juice on the cooked squid and serve warm on a bed of fresh salad greens.  I generally don’t use salad dressing, but I imagine a light citrus vinaigrette would go well with the squid.  For the salad shown above, I threw on some pickled whelks (called “pickled wrinkles” in Maine) which added a similar hint of vinegar.