Recipe: Gemelli with Calamari and Pea Shoots
Something happens to my cats when I bring squid into the house. They revert into wild creatures. They howl like babies, clawing up my leg, sticking their warm black-and-white heads right under my ten-inch chef’s knife to steal away as much raw squid as they can. It’s a ferocious battle, and they always win, exasperating me and finally wearing me out. They love it raw. They love it cooked. No other seafood produces such a response from them. They can smell the squid the minute I walk in the front door. And they’re relentless in their pursuit of it.
Buddy chomps on a raw squid tentacle. Fumio looks on.
I myself love squid, too, especially when on a Saturday I can make it to my neighborhood Greenmarket at Abingdon Square and buy it from Phil Karlin, my number-one fish guy, who fishes off the North Shore of Long Island. His is the squid my cats prefer, too. It’s ultra fresh, as it should be but somehow never quite is when I buy it from a fish shop (frozen and thawed can be okay, but not dependably). When I get small, pristine, fresh-from-the-sea squid from Mr. Karlin, I like to flash cook it so it stays white and juicy.
I made it to Abingdon Square market this week in time for Mr. Karlin’s squid (he often runs out of most fish by about noon, so if I don’t get moving I miss out, and then everyone is pissed). While at the market, I also picked up a handful of pea shoots, the first time I had seen them this spring, and fresh, still bulbless garlic and spring onions, both with long, tender green stems attached.
After a little back and forth in my culinary head, here’s what I made. You can’t really go wrong with ingredients like these.
Gemelli with Calamari and Pea Shoots
(Serves 6 as a first course or 4 as a main course)
3 tablespoons butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
A little chunk of fatty prosciutto end, cut into small dice (about ¼ cup)
1 spring onion, cut into small dice, using the tender green stem
1 stalk fresh spring garlic, thinly sliced, using the tender green stem
1½ cups freshly shucked peas
A generous pinch of ground allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth, and possibly a little extra
1 pound gemelli pasta
1½ pounds small calamari, cleaned and cut into rings, the tentacles left whole
A splash of dry white wine
A handful of pea shoots, trimmed of their thick stems
A big squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated grana Padano cheese
Set up a large pot of pasta cooking water, and bring it to a boil.
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and the onion, and sauté until the onion is soft and the prosciutto has given off some of its fat, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and sauté just until it releases its aroma, about a minute. Add the peas, seasoning with the allspice, salt, and black pepper. Add the chicken broth, and turn the heat to high. Boil the peas, uncovered, until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes. There should be about ½ inch of liquid left in the skillet. If not, add a little more chicken broth.
Add a generous amount of salt to the pasta water, and drop in the gemelli.
In another skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining tablespoon of butter over high heat. When hot, add the calamari, seasoning with salt and black pepper, and sauté quickly, just until it’s tender and opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes, depending on its size. Add the splash of wine, and let it bubble for a few seconds. Add the calamari and all the skillet juices to the peas.
When the gemelli is al dente, drain it, and pour it into a large, warmed serving bowl. Drizzle on a generous amount of fresh olive oil, and add the grana Padano. Toss gently. Add the calamari and pea sauce, the pea shoots, and the squeeze of lemon juice. Toss again. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or black pepper if needed. Serve hot.