We should talk about food.
While it’s true that we are what we eat, we are also how we eat. Food is life and health and culture, so to understand the story behind it, the quality, and even who makes it for us is more than just food for thought — it’s important.
We really should know what we’re eating.
Calamari is the Italian word for squid, and a decidedly more lovely sounding one at that. You’ve most likely seen it as a breaded and deep-fried appetizer widely available at bars and restaurants. It didn’t quite reach popularity in North America until the 1980’s but has been a mainstay ingredient in cuisines world-wide for much longer than that. Spanish, Italian, Greek and Portuguese cooks have traditionally added squid to paella, soups, pastas, stuffed and in lulas. It’s also been historically used in Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean dishes, enormously popular as everything from street food to fine restaurant fare.
Squid suits quick and hot methods of cooking like grilling, broiling or deep frying but can also be braised low and slow in sauces or curries. It’s a versatile little creature, and good for you at that, containing a number of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B-12, iron, potassium, and zinc. It even provides a healthy dose of protein.
With all this in mind, let’s go get it.
One of the best Calamari recipes can be found in Guelph, and made by executive chef Graham Black of Bin 23 Restaurant. Graham has been creating versions of this dish for ages, switching up the garnish hundreds of times over the years. He’s served it with caper berries, aioli, even with a little poblano and peperonata. His tried and true method of cooking though? Grilled, not breaded and fried. Therein lies the magic.
He insists on using the highest quality calamari to get it right, sourcing the same product for over 25 years now. The meat is vaguely sweet, readily taking on flavours. It’s tender with just the right amount of chew, never rubbery. So while food trends come and go, here, the calamari stays, says Graham.
Slicing the tubes three-quarters of the way through perfects the decorative presentation and ensures even cooking. Rubbing the calamari with roasted garlic, basil, olive oil and salt and pepper is the key to simplicity here. Not to mention the grilling time. Only a minute-and-a-half per side on a hot grill and you’ve got yourself what the restaurant says is their top seller. In fact they’ve had to keep the orders at bay on any particular night because the tiny grill just can’t handle them all.
A little drizzle of citrus butter and an accompanying charred lemon finishes the plate perfectly, delivering the best of bites.