Dinner Tonight

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Dinner Tonight: David Tanis's Pasta with Squid and White Beans

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[Photograph: Blake Royer]

I first encountered the combination of squid and white beans in the famous tapas bar Bar Pintxo in the Boqueria market of Barcelona. There, tiny white runner beans are the bed for squid seared on a screaming hot flattop; a sauce of olive oil and the squid's ink gives the whole plate a round, salty tang. In a country of incredible food, it remains one of the best things I've eaten.

Why I Picked This Recipe: With the memory of that dish in my head, I turned to this recipe in David Tanis's marvelous book Heart of the Artichoke. Tanis, who is chef at Chez Panisse half the year and hosts dinners in Paris for the remainder (what a life), has published a couple of cookbook gems in the last few years. In this recipe, the addition of pasta helps stretch it into a full and more economical meal.

What Worked: The flavors and textures worked as well as I'd hoped: the pleasant chewiness of the squid, the smooth creamy beans, and the bold use of fresh marjoram as a major flavor alongside garlic and red pepper flakes. This makes a great bowl of pasta.

What Didn't: I found that ratios of ingredients in this recipe were off. It called for far too much squid than can be cooked successfully on a home burner without crowding a pan. This crowding prevented getting a deep sear on the squid before it become rubbery, which I missed. The way the tentacles get almost crispy is my favorite part of cooking them.

Suggested Tweaks: I've already adapted the recipe below to call for less squid, and to preheat the pan ahead of time so it's as hot as possible before the squid is added. My other suggestion is to squeeze lemon over everything for crucial acidity, and tone down the red pepper flakes to 1/2 teaspoon. Another idea altogether would be to lose the pasta altogether, and simply serve this is a bean salad with the squid on top.

About the author: Blake Royer is a food writer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Chicago; he has been writing for Serious Eats since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter @blakeroyer.

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