Certain things—like edible gold dust and that radish rose garnish people were crazy about in the ‘90s—exist solely for appearance's sake. Squid ink, despite its striking color, isn't one of these things. The ink is anything but ick (so much so that I named my jet black-furred cat Squid).
Squid ink's released from the ink sacs (found beneath the gills) as a defense mechanism, with squid logic being something like: The cloudier the water, the harder it is to become prey. As Food52 Italian correspondent Emiko Davies writes, "In Venice (and pretty much anywhere on the Italian coast), squid can still be found with their ink sacs attached, especially at the fish markets or good fish mongers." However, if such squid or the idea of extracting an ink sac skeeves you out, you can find squid ink already bottled or packaged.
Its briny, earthy flavor isn't fishy but rather has a distinct saltiness that pairs well with fish and shellfish. Since a dab (or rather a teaspoon) will do ya, that bottle of squid ink will stretch. Here's what to do with it:
How do you use squid ink? Tell us in the comments below!
Photos by Emiko Davies, Tara Sgroi, James Ransom, Linda Xiao, and Emily Vikre