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A MOVIE can be inspiring. Wife Dottie and I enjoyed Turner Classic Movies showing of Big Night and, the next thing I knew, I was devising a new recipe for foodstuffs on hand, Calamari, Peperoni e Cipolle.
It’s not surprising we had sweet peppers and onions, but having squid was its own special treat. I had just visited Mitsuwa, our local Japanese market, and a few pieces of its sushi-quality squid were withheld from the day’s dinner of seafood soup.
The movie Big Night is a drama with plenty of comedic overtones. Two brothers from Abruzzo run a restaurant in New Jersey (the film, shot in Keyport on the Jersey shore). The elder, prosaically named Primo, is a perfectionist chef; the younger, Secondo, is the restaurant’s manager, laboring under his brother’s incredibly high standards of cuisine.
I won’t give away the drama or the fun. Suffice it to say Big Night celebrates Italian cuisine as Babette’s Feast did French.
But back to my Calamari, Peperoni e Cipolle. I consulted a passle of Italian cookbooks, though none offered what I had in mind, a calamari counterpart to a quick and easy Sausage, Peppers and Onions. However, they all confirmed my opinion that Italian cuisine celebrates fresh ingredients prepared simply (just as French cuisine strives to make inedibles somehow palatable through complication).
Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table has a squid recipe with a great name, Strozzapreti con Poveracce e le Seppie (Priest Stranglers with Fresh Clams and Squid).
Rossetto Kasper agreed with other authorities in sharing the trick of tasty tender squid: Either cook it at high temperature in a flash or simmer it long and slow—never in between.
I opted for quick stir-frying the other ingredients in a touch of olive oil, deglazing the pan with a splash of wine and some butter, and then adding the squid for only the last couple of minutes.
Buon appetito! And thanks, Big Night, for the inspiration. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014