Summer Squid Salad & A Giveaway

Summer Squid Salad

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 love blue sea, San Francisco CA

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 love blue sea, San Francisco CA

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

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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2-inch rings and place into a medium bowl. Add the chopped fennel and celery.
  4. 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.
  5. Let it rest, at room temperature or the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before serving.



  1. Your squid salad looks so fresh and delicious! I love love love squid. I grew up in the south and spent many summers on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico. My family would rent a house with another family and for a couple of weeks I could pretend I actually lived there. Nothing beats eating fish and peeling shrimp while listening to the sounds of the ocean and smelling the salt in the air. These days, sustainable seafood is very important to me and I’m glad you brought it up here. Gotta be an informed consumer. The dollars we spend is our voice to affect change.

  2. Kira

    My most memorable seafood experience also involves squid, actually. My mother made bouillabaisse for dinner one night when I was perhaps 10, and my brothers a few years younger. She didn’t even attempt to make the recipe kid-friendly, or even rural Midwest friendly for that matter. Therefore, there were tentacles. They wiggled and jiggled in our bowls far too realistically; naturally, we refused to eat something so alien. For better or worse, we had to adhere to the strictest of dinner table polices: clean your plate (or bowl, in this case) or don’t leave the table. And so we ate. I am not going so far as to say that we liked it, but we were really excited to brag to our friends the next day at school!

    I enjoy tentacles now (especially in calamari form), and hope to make bouillabaisse myself one day.

  3. When I was young me and my family used to go on vacation in Gull Lake, Minnesota with my grandparents, great grandparents, cousins, and even second cousins! We brought such a huge group to the town that I think we had more visitors than actual full-time residents. My first memory (and I think most memorable) of fishing/seafood was sitting on the dock at Gull Lake with my dad, grandpa, and great grandpa. Four generations of our family, brought together by fishing.

  4. Hannah

    When I was nine I spent all day on the banks of a creek trying to catch crabs. Everyone was catching them but me. I finally caught one, I got it all the way over to the big bucket where we were keeping them and it dropped to the ground and starting running away sideways, with its pinchers in the air and its little legs kicking. I tried to flick it back toward the bucket with my hand, but it grabbed a hold of my finger and wouldn’t let go! My daddy finally got it off and I was crying and upset, but that night we cooked up that crab and it was the best boiled crab I ever had in my life.

  5. danielle

    growing up in maryland my most memorable seafood experiences involve crabs. one is going out to catch crabs in the chesapeake bay. the other is laying out newspapers with my family in the backyard and devouring dozens of maryland blue crabs.

  6. I regret to admit that I was about 17 or 18 before I could really appreciate any form of seafood. It was a timely change in tastes, actually, b/c my family and I were headed out for a week in Seattle, Portland, and the Washington and Oregon coasts. On a drive along the coast of Oregon, we pulled off for a fresh steamed Dungeness crab to share as a snack. I hate to say it was a religious experience, but … Pretty much perfect at the very least.

  7. Last summer, Dennis took me to the Outer Banks for the very first time to join his family for their annual summer trip. They have been doing the annual pilgrimage to North Carolina from Ohio for many years now. We lounged on the beach for a week and we went fishing, clamming and crabbing, too. It was the first time I ever caught a fish on a boat in the Atlantic. The first time I dug up clams in the Sound. And it was the first time I went crabbing. Blue crabs are much smaller than Dungeness but their flesh is so much sweeter. No need for butter! What made our blue crabbing trip so much more memorable was the fact that we crabbed on the same spot at the Oregon Inlet where Dennis, his brothers, and his dad crabbed many (many) years ago when the boys were little. It was magical. Everything was improvised. We used hooks and strings we bought from a Bait and Tackle Shop nearby. We used an empty soda bottle and filled it with seawater and tied the string around the bottle and used it to catch blue crabs with chicken as bait. A beautiful summer that will always be remembered fondly.

  8. Exploring the craggy French coast of Bretagne, my husband and I stopped at a fishing village with the mouth-filling name, Ploubazlenec. In a cafe perched on the water’s edge, the only possible midday meal was something that recently swam in the sea. I noticed large metal platters in front of most of the other diners piled with mounds of shellfish. “Je prends ça,” I told the waiter, pointing. (My less adventurous husband had sole).

    My plate arrived heaped with sea creatures, many of which I had never seen before. It also came equipped with an entire tool kit of picks and forks and shell crackers, plus little pots of sauces and dips. I recognized the oysters, clams and shrimp, but the latter still had their legs, heads and beady eyes attached.

    After a glass of Sancerre, I was ready to tackle the pretty spiral shells, which I decided must be hiding some delectable morsels. The bigger shells were bigorneaux (periwinkles), and the tiny ones bulots (whelks). I faced my “tool kit” without a clue of how to proceed. As I scanned the dining room for guidance, I noticed with dismay that my fellow diners were on to dessert already. So I grabbed a metal pick that resembled a dental hygienist’s tool and poked around in one of the shells, fishing for some little crustacean to emerge, and in the process squirting my husband with its sea juices.

    Finally, I hooked into something and wiggled it out triumphantly. With a twinkle in his eye, my husband suggested that this grey-green wormy thing resembled something that might come from one’s nose. Nevertheless, I plunged it into a pot of sauce and popped it into my mouth. Chewy, yes…but brimming with the salty spray, ocean breeze the foamy blue waves.

  9. Mike

    Actually, I can’t decide which of my two great fish stories is best.

    I grew up Irish Catholic in New York City in the 60s, which meant fish or worse on Fridays – though I later came to appreciate my mother’s broiled fish. Anyway, after college, I was lucky enough to snag a research slot in the out-island Bahamas in a small, small village. The first time I tasted fish right off the fishing boat with a little hit of what the locals called “sour” – sort of like a key lime – was an absolute epiphany. “This is fish??!!” I’ve never looked back.

    Fast forward about 10-12 years and I’m in the galley of a disabled Canadian tuna boat in the Atlantic off Hampton Roads. I’d ridden out on the tug sent to bring her to port. The cook asks if I want something to eat. Yes. I end up with about a 1 inch thick slab of a good pound or more of tuna caught a couple of hours before. Just tuna. The cook heated it up a little – I actually forget how – and put it in front of me with a bottle of malt vinegar. Damned if I can’t still taste it 30 years later.

  10. Klee

    How awesome! My favorite seafood experience is my first time eating crab legs. I’m from a landlocked state, but hitched a ride down to the gulf coast, and a friend prepared a huge batch for us. I was sort of hesitant to try them, but to this day I remember them fondly. I sort of want to go back just for the seafood.

  11. Julien

    When I was about thirteen, I spent a few weeks with my uncle on the coast of Normandy. Now, he’s somewhat of an aquatic one. He threw on a wet suit and fins and backed himself into the water with his gear. He came back up about 10 minutes later with about a dozen Dorades (regional fish) attached to his waist. Now, there were only two of us. So, the feasting lasted a few days, but it left me with two things. First, my admiration for my uncle shot through the roof. Second, I learned that great fish is not replaceable; nature provides quality if respected.

  12. Carmen N

    Living in the Midwest we don’t get a lot of fresh Sea food – we’re better off getting our fresh fish from the local lakes and rivers. That said, my most memorable experiences are when my aunt & uncle introduced me to crab one summer while I was staying with them. I love the stuff! Another experience was when I got to eat at the Oceanaire Seafood Room in Minneapolis. Best salmon I’ve ever had!

  13. I thought this salad looked familiar! Oh man, how I do love Adesso! Brought Sam there last week and had one too many cocktails. Oops. We had the same bartender that you and I did and he just gets me every time with his bourbon knowledge. I’m a sucker (let’s go back soon!). Salad looks divine … something I’d probably never do at home, so I’m in awe that you did. xox.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *