Temperatures came close to topping 80 degrees today.

Which meant dinner had to be al fresco. And the entree had to be grilled.

So we dined on this:

Cast-iron calamari.

This is a cinch to make (no use slaving in the kitchen when it’s such a nice day). You slice calamari, toss it in a cast-iron pan and soak it in a fennel-spiced lemon and olive oil mixture. After a quick blast on a super-hot grill, the calamari emerges tender and rosy. The lemon and olive oil create a savory dipping sauce. A sprinkling of baby arugula gives crunch and welcome bitterness.

We ate the dish with a side of pasta.

Outside, of course.

Cast-Iron Calamari

I’m usually a stickler for keeping lemon juice away from my cast-iron pan. But this dish cooks so quickly (and is eaten so fast), there’s no time for the usual off-taste that can occur when iron and citrus interact.

  • 1 10.6-ounce package frozen whole calamari
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Fennel seeds
  • Baby arugula

Thaw the calamari, then drain it and dry it well. Cut the bodies into 1/3- to 1/2-inch rings.

Place the seafood in a 9-inch cast-iron pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper:

Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the calamari, then add about as much olive oil. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of fennel seeds and gently toss. Your squid should give the appearance of — forgive me — “swimming” in liquid.

Heat your grill until very hot. I have a gas grill, and I waited until it was 600 degrees.

Place the cast-iron pan on the grill. Close the lid and grill for 6 minutes.

Carefully remove the pan and add two handfuls of baby arugula. Toss with tongs until the greens wilt.

Serve with a spoon to make sure everyone gets plenty sauce along with their seafood.

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