Seared Squid[Photograph: Simon Wheeler]

I was first introduced to squid in the form of battered and fried calamari dredged through tomato sauce (as were, I am sure, many of us in the Olive Garden generation). For years afterward, I would chew my way through mountains of the greasy stuff, proud to be eating something "weird," but not brave enough to sample any squid that actually looked like, well, squid.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher's Seared Squid from The River Cottage Fish Book will convert even the most die-hard calamari lovers (even the picky 10-year-old version of myself). Seasoned simply with olive oil, garlic, and paprika or sumac, the squid is scored and then seared over blisteringly high heat. As the River Cottage duo says, "If you can be identified as anything more than a blur with a pair of tongs, you're moving too slowly." Indeed, if you're starting with cleaned squid, this appetizer is only moments away.*

*And if you've got whole squid, there are clear step-by-step directions for getting the cephalopod cleaned and ready for cooking.

Why I picked this recipe: Squid are kind of a gateway shellfish. They're not terribly fishy and they're relatively easy to clean and prepare.

What worked: Fast, easy, and fragrant, this was everything I want in a weeknight seafood dish.

What didn't: The recipe doesn't specify to pat the shellfish dry before dressing; be sure to give the squid a once- (or twice-) over with paper towels. Also I found a bit of oil in the pan was needed to keep things from sticking too much.

Suggested tweaks: I prepared the squid using sumac, but just about any ground spice would taste good here. Next time, I'll use smoked paprika.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The River Cottage Fish Book to give away.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.


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