I remember watching my grandmother clean fresh squid from the market. I looked on with the morbid curiosity of strangers witnessing a train wreck as she tore off the delicate heads before plunging her fingers into the cavity to scrape out thick, viscous insides and pulling out a plastic-looking ‘spine, in an unexpected turn of events. Compared with the slithery, formless nature of what came before it, the spine looked…normal. It was a welcome interlude in the Horror Show of the Decapitating Squid, now playing at a kitchen sink near you. More lasting though, was the lesson about what those dainty, sometimes rubbery, white rings looked like before their faceless existence.
Years later, and grandmother-less, I found myself sucking it up and plunging my fingers into a squid’s body in my own sink, the tapwater turned up into a raging river to wash sticky insides away as quickly as possible. As with most things in life, the more I did it, the easier it got. The gushing water has slowed to a stream and these days I don’t even think twice about yanking off the tentacles and squeezing the guts out of these sea creatures. Shelling fresh shrimp, on the other hand, is still a work in progress…
I had the chance to practice my squid-cleaning skills after loading up on seafood supplies from i love blue sea, the only retail distributor of sustainable seafood in the US. I featured them in my latest post on Etsy about the complexity surrounding sustainable seafood, the one area of our food system that still seems pretty much like the Wild West to me.
How so? You ask. Well, mislabeling is rampant, for one, so that white fish on your plate may or may not be line-caught Pacific Halibut, regardless of how conscientious a restaurant or your fishmonger may be. It’s a complex supply chain from net to plate, one which operates mostly on trust between the different players, in the absence of a strict, industry-wide standard that regulates what seafood is caught where and how it’s obtained.
This is where the three-member team at i love blue sea hope to make a difference. Martin Reed, a Bay Area native who, upon learning about the havoc that our consumption patterns are wreaking on ocean health, decided to do something about it by taking on the research needed to source sustainable seafood for the average consumer.
”There are lots of fisheries that are responsibly harvesting seafood and I felt that we could add value by helping bring their products to market,” he said.
I for one, am delighted to discover a service that takes out the guesswork involved with eating fish and seafood that’s been produced in a way that’s good for the environment and good for our health. I think you’d like it too. Which is why Martin and the team have donated a $75 i love blue sea gift card for one lucky US-based* reader which can be applied to any order from now until December 31, 2011.
To win, just leave a comment to this post sharing your most memorable seafood experience: first fishing trip? Abalone-harvesting? Oyster-shucking competitions? Inquiring minds want to know. I’ll pick my favorite story and announce the winner next week.
This giveaway ends at midnight PST on Monday August 15, so comment away!
*i love blue sea only ships within the Continental US.
Summer Squid Salad
Serves 2 as a side
This is inspired by a salad we had at Adesso in Oakland, where the best Happy Hour can be had and parking isn’t a nightmare. I cooked the squid over a grill pan, but you could just as well cook it on the grill as part of your summer festivities, just brush the squid liberally with oil before putting them on the grill. The salad can be made a few hours in advance of serving but not longer as the squid will turn rubbery from sitting in lemon juice.
- Six medium-sized squid, about 11/2-pounds, cleaned
- 1 lemon, halved
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch chunks
- 6-8 ounces fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced, fennel fronds reserved
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Toss the squid with the juice from a lemon half and a teaspoon of salt. Leave to rest for 15-20 minutes while you prep the vegetables.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a grill pan then toss in the squid (be careful the oil will sputter), leaving each body on the pan for up to a minute. Transfer to a plate.
- When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2-inch rings and place into a medium bowl. Add the chopped fennel and celery.
- Whisk together the olive oil, juice of the other lemon half and the remaining teaspoon of salt then pour over the squid and chopepd vegetables. Add the fennel fronds and toss to evenly coat each ingredient.
- Let it rest, at room temperature or the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before serving.