A Quest for Food Purity Leading to Discovery of My Love of Cuttlefish
And some new ideas on what to do with it………..
Cuttlefish are lovely sea creatures that can be a bit intimidating but yet are quite lovely both to witness in the sea and to eat! They are part of the Sepiida family, which is the same as squid and octopuses. The cuttlefish is sweeter and thicker than squid and less dense than them both as well. The ink of the cuttlefish is prized due its rich deep flavors unlike its blander relatives. They are very similar to squid with an internal type shell of bones made out of a cartilage like substance. They have 8 arms and two tentacles. On each of the tentacles are some suckers in which they catch their prey with. The average cuttlefish size if about 6-10 inches. The cuttlefish is native to the Mediterranean and is also found in Asia. Fresh cuttlefish is not often seen fresh in the USA but when we do find it this treasure is filled with good stuff, including its ink. There are indeed tough so typically we see them cooked for just a slight amount of time or stewed for a long time. The ink sac can be harvested from the fish and made into lovely dishes as well. Here are a few of the amazing recipes I learned in Italy along the Lingurian coast. They are my interpretations of things I ate and saw.
The cuttlefish is a bit more difficult to deal with as opposed to its relatives so I have attached a link to a video that does an incredible job of explaining it.
Grilled & Stuffed Cuttlefish
4 medium cuttlefish, cleaned and kept whole
½ cup fresh shelling beans, cooked
½ cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup pecorino cheese, finely garted
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon fresh pesto
Salt and pepper
Chop the tentacles up and toss together in a mixing bowl with the beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, breadcrumbs and pecorino. Mix in lemon zest and juice and pesto and season with salt and pepper to taste. Carefully stuff the bodies of the cuttlefish and brush with the reaming pesto on both sides. Grill on a hot grill for about 10-12 minutes flipping 2-3 times as needed.
Fettuccini Nero Al Mar
This recipe is inspired by two experiences actually, my trip to the Lingurian coast and my many trips to Al di La in Brooklyn and my many Sepia Al Nero meals I have had right here in my own backyard. I often try to recreate Anna’s dishes and with an okay amount of success and this dish is no exception. I would like to think I learned a few tricks in Italy that can perhaps, maybe, almost compete with Anna’s version, which I have to admit is just about exactly the same as I found all along the coast of Italy!
Cuttlefish Ink Fettuccini, cooked (regular pasta dough) made with 1 tablespoon cuttlefish ink
*for whatever reason the sepia ink is said to drown out the taste of the salt in the past so add 1 teaspoon salt extra tot eh recipe when using the ink
2 teaspoons fresh red chili’s (dried chili flakes can be substituted)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 cloves garlic
1 cup rock shrimp
1 cup cuttlefish pieces, chopped large
2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pesto
¼ cup fresh mint
In a large sauté pan heat the oil, chilies and lemon zest and sauté the garlic for a few minutes. Add the rock shrimp and cuttlefish pieces and sauté a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt and the pesto and stir. Cook for about 5-8 minutes and toss together with pasta and fresh mint.
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