Seared Calamari with Fresh Tomato Basil Salsa

From Rockin’ Ron Shewchuk

2012 Jul/Aug

The secret to great grilled calamari is to use the freshest and smallest you can find, and to cook it over high heat for no more than a minute per side. Any longer and it turns rubbery. In this recipe, the tomato salsa provides a cool, tangy, herbal complement to the hot, garlicky calamari.


  • 1 lb. cleaned calamari, equal parts bodies and tentacles
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 c. small, ripe cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 T. fresh basil
  • 1 T. rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper


Coat the squid in the salt, then rinse it thoroughly with cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels. Slit the bodies lengthwise and score the inside surfaces with diagonal cuts. Cut each squid into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a bowl with 1/4 c. of the olive oil, the red pepper flakes, and the garlic. Toss them to coat them and marinate them in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Preheat your charcoal grill on high, and in this case, keep the lid off for maximum combustion. Try to time it so you put the squid on the grill when the coals are at their hottest, which is right after they’re all ignited. You can tell coals are ready when they’ve got a light coating of white ash. While the grill is heating, coarsely chop the tomatoes (halves or quarters are fine), slice the basil leaves into fine shreds, and toss them together in a bowl with the vinegar and the remainder of the olive oil. Distribute the salsa among four plates.

When the grill is hot, gently place the calamari on the cooking grate, taking care not to let the pieces slip through the cracks (you may even want to use a grill-topper with small holes designed for this kind of task). Don’t walk away! Stand at the open grill and tend the squid with a set of tongs, turning the pieces often so they cook quickly and evenly, no more than a minute per side. Remove the squid from the grill and transfer it to the plates.

Sprinkle each serving with just a pinch of salt and a light grinding of pepper. Drizzle the calamari with a little more olive oil and serve it immediately with a crisp, fruity