Thursday, December 29, 2011

KALAMARAKIA YEMISTA or STUFFED SQUID (Καλαμαρακια γεμιστα)

Kalamarakia Yemista is Greek for stuffed calamari.  Calamari is, of course, squid.  It’s my favorite thing to eat (second favorite has got to be sushi).  My last meal would include fried calamari, a variety of sushi, and diet Pepsi… woops… now I need some diet Pepsi.  Excuse me while I visit the kitchen for a cold, bubbly glass of the stuff!  Be right back….
Here I am!  Did you miss me?  Anyway, I prefer a plate of calamari to say a plate of roast beef.  My favorite way of eating calamari is breaded and fried.  Heaven!  However, I prefer to have someone else fry them- like a cook at a restaurant- because I am not fond of the odor that tends to linger in the kitchen after having fried any type of seafood.  Stuffing them is a nice way to cook them at home.  Italians like to stuff their calamari with bread crumbs, but we Greeks prefer a stuffing made with rice.  It’s all good.  Kalamarakia yemista are usually eaten in the summer or at Lent time.  I am making these in December, 29 December to be exact, because that’s my birthday, and I always have calamari to eat on my birthday.
You’ll need to buy small, fresh squid as they are the most tender.  Get mostly the mantle, or sack like part of the squid, because that is a cavity, just right for stuffing.  If tentacles are included with your purchase, you have two or three options:  Bread them and fry them, chop them up very well and include them in the stuffing, or bake them along with the stuffed calamari by tucking them snugly in the same pan.  
On either side of the squid, attached to the bottom of the mantle, are small fins.  Those are easy to remove with a knife, and they can be chopped up to be included in the stuffing.  Whatever you do, my advice is to make sure that you buy cleaned calamari.  Cleaning them at home is a tedious and messy job.  I've watched people do it, and I've realized that it's not for me.     
Most recipes for kalamarakia gemista are similar.  One interesting variation is the addition of raisins and pine nuts in the stuffing.  My version is simpler, so let's go to the kitchen and make stuffed squid (for my birthday):

Ingredients:

1 pound cleaned baby squid
tentacles from the squid, some chopped into small pieces, some left whole 
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 scallions, white and pale green part, finely chopped
3/4 cup long grain rice
1 cup chicken broth
3 tomatoes, skin and seeds removed and chopped well
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup white wine, plus a little more for drizzling 
olive oil
pinch thyme 
Toasted pine nuts (optional)



Directions:

  • Place the squid in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Pour 1/2 cup of the wine over them, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and marinate in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
  • In a medium skillet heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onions until they are soft.  Add the chopped up squid and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and the rice and stir to coat with the olive oil.  Cook for about a minute, stirring.  
  • Add the scallions and 2 of the diced tomatoes.
  • Add the chicken broth, the rest of the wine and the marinade from the squid.
  • Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer on low until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  • Let the rice cool slightly, then add the herbs and mix well.
  • Preheat the oven to 400° F. Prepare the baking pan:  Pour the tomato sauce and add the remaining diced tomato on the bottom of the pan.  Season with a little thyme.    
  • Stuff the squid with the rice mixture.  This is a job best done by using your hands.  Make sure the rice gets to the bottom of the squid cavity, and keep pressing the rice with your fingers so that the cavity is nicely filled  You may want to secure the top of each squid with a toothpick so that the rice does not spill during baking.  
  • Place the squid in the baking pan and roll it around in the tomato sauce. Add the tentacles if you have any.  Drizzle some wine and olive oil over the squid and bake it uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the squid from the oven.  Have a serving platter ready.  Spread some of the sauce from the squid on the platter.  Place the squid on top and spoon a little more sauce over them.  Sprinkle with the pine nuts if using, and serve.