Calamari is basically prepared/cooked squid. Many people prefer to read the word calamari on a menu rather than squid. Whatever you call it, these salt water mollusks are delicious, especially when cooked on your George Foreman Grill. Their flavor is mild and the meat lends itself nicely to a marinade.
Grilling squid is a healthier preparation than deep frying it. At the end of this article we will describe some of the benefits of eating grilled calamari. First, let’s talk about how to buy and clean squid for grilling.
Squid is sold either fresh or frozen. Fresh squid is not easy to find unless you are in a seaport area where it is harvested daily. It is more common to find frozen or defrosted, previously frozen, whole squid. If you do purchase whole squid you will need to clean it, which we will delve into.
You can find cleaned and frozen squid in most markets. These are available as tubes and tentacles or already sliced into rings. The rings are the preferred pieces for making breaded and deep fried calamari, a very popular appetizer. If you do buy frozen squid, place it in your refrigerator overnight to slowly thaw it out.
Cleaning Fresh Whole Squid
Cleaning squid is not hard but it isn’t for those who are squeamish. There are a few body parts that have to be removed, including the head, eyes, beak, internal organs, and skin.
Start with removing the head. With a small, sharp knife, cut the head off just below the eyes. Then, cut the tentacles from the top of the head. These are very tasty when cooked, so don’t toss them out. Do toss the portion of the head with the eyes.
Now you have access to the body, internal organs, and ink sac. Carefully pull the internal organs out in a single motion. The ink sac should come out as well. Try to be gentle so that the sac does not break. The ink is messy, but not an issue as it is edible and often used to make squid ink pasta. Rinse out the body, or mantle, under cold water to make sure all the fatty tissue is removed.
Next, feel for the beak. It is a hard piece of cartilage that looks like a clear plastic quill. You can pull the beak out and discard it. Check to make sure it hasn’t broken. This is not edible.
We are now down to the fins and skin, or membrane. The fins are shaped like small wings on the outside of the body. You can either pull these off by hand or slice them off. Then, peel the pink skin from the body by starting at the wide opening and pulling down toward the narrow end. You may have to use a small sharp knife to coax the membrane off of the body.
You are now ready to cook and eat calamari.
Grilled Calamari with Herbs and Garlic over Rice
- 1 lb cleaned whole squid bodies and tentacles
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- Juice of 1/4 fresh lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 leaves fresh basil, chopped finely
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Total time:7 min – Prep time:5 min – Cook time:2 min – Serves:4 people
1. Rinse the squid under cold running water and check for any cartilage and any internal fatty tissue masses. Pat dry and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the remaining ingredients. Add the calamari and toss to coat in the marinade. Set the bowl aside for up to 30 minutes.
3. Preheat your GF grill to high with the top closed. Place the drip tray at the end of the grill.
4. Grill the calamari with the top closed for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes until just translucent and curling up. You may have to do this in 2 batches.
5. Remove the cooked calamari to a cutting board and slice into rings. Serve with saffron infused rice, grilled veggies, and lemon wedges. (A rice recipe follows).
Saffron Infused Basmati Rice
- 1/4 cup boiled water
- 2 pinches of saffron threads, crumbled
- 1 cup white basmati rice
- 1-3/4 cups filtered water
- 1 TBS butter or ghee
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Salt and pepper to taste
Total time: 23 min – Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 18 min – Serves: 4 people
1. In a small bowl, place the 1/4 cup of boiled water and crumble the saffron into the water. Set this aside.
2. Rinse the rice in a sieve under cool running water until the water runs clear. In a sauce pot that has a lid, place the rice, 1-3/4 cups water, saffron (with water), butter, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat down to a slow simmer and place the lid on the pot. Set a timer for 18 minutes and leave the pot alone. Check to see that the water is 99% absorbed at 18 minutes. Continue to simmer for a couple more minutes if needed. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the rice to rest, covered, for 5 minutes while you grill your calamari.
3. Season the rice with salt and pepper to taste and fluff it lightly with a fork. Serve the rice beneath the calamari. You can drizzle a good quality EVOO over the dish and squeeze some lemon juice over the top.
Benefits of Eating Grilled Calamari
You might be eyeballing that mouthwatering description of breaded and deep fried calamari with a dipping sauce of marinara or aioli on a menu and wondering if it is a healthy choice for an appetizer. You will likely order this delicious dish and tell yourself that you will only eat it once in awhile. Go for it, occasionally.
This classic preparation of squid is hard to resist. But, you are often getting frozen, pre-breaded calamari that has been fried in soy, peanut, or corn oil. Most of the flavor comes from the oil and the added salt. The rings of calamari are often overcooked and rubbery.
The recipe described above is a healthier preparation of calamari. Flash grilling it on a GF grill preserves the nutrients of the fish while maintaining a softer texture. Grilled calamari is delicate and has a hint of the sea in flavor. Be mindful not to overcook it. It really only takes a minute or two to cook squid properly.
The mineral content of squid is impressive. This fish contains enough copper to fulfill 90% of the body’s recommended daily allowance (RDA). Copper is essential for the absorption of iron that is needed for the formation of red blood cells. Squid also contains large amounts of phosphorus that is necessary for stimulating calcium for supporting the growth of bones and teeth. The amount of zinc in this seafood can help to strengthen the immune system.
Squid is a great source of vitamin B12, known to lower homocystein levels in the body. Too much homocystein can increase the chance of a stroke or heart attack. The vitamin B3 in squid can help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Squid meat is low in calories and high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The protein in squid is extremely beneficial for healthy skin, muscles, hair, and nails.