- Prep time 40 minutes
- Cook time 5 minutes
- Serves 4
When my sister moved away, she left me with a bunch of groceries she didn't want to throw away, including a package of frozen baby squid—which I promptly shoved in the freezer and ignored for a few months while I tried to work up the nerve to cook squid for the first time.
When I finally bit the bullet, I decided I didn't want to go the lemon/oregano/garlic/balsamic that's ubiquitous in Mediterranean restaurants, and used a smoked paprika, lemon and cumin marinade inspired by North African spices.
I'm really happy with the results—these little calamari skewers are spicy and flavourful and entirely different from any other grilled squid I've ever had. Thanks, sis. —Izzbell
Test Kitchen Notes
True to its name, Izzbell’s North African-inspired calamari is a bright and spicy dish that will make a great addition to your summer grilling repertoire. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate and celebrate Christmas, grill it outside and serve it as part of a Feast of the Seven Fishes on December 24th. To make this dish , start with one pound of baby squid including the tubes and tentacles because someone will prefer rings, while others will favor the bits that get charred and crispy on the grill. Depending on where you buy your seafood, one pound of tubes and tentacles can cost between $13-$17 and you’ll get about 20 pieces per pound. This recipe serves four, which works out to about five large pieces per person (though you could certainly break it up into fewer pieces on more skewers if you want to serve this as an appetizer for a crowd). Smaller squid will work just as well, too —and remember, garnishing with a squeeze of lemon is key!
Oh, and don’t be scared off by the lengthy prep time—30 minutes are reserved for marinating the squid in a flavorful combination of smoked paprika, cumin, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, cayenne pepper, and garlic. Squid can seamlessly adapt to the flavor of what it’s being cooked or marinated in, which is why we went with a more robust marinade that t would be overpowering on other kinds of seafood). Pro tip: if you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them in water while the squid marinate to prevent them from totally and completely burning on the grill. If you use stainless steel skewers, just carefully grab them with tongs when pulling from the grill as the metal will be hot. Once the squid has had time to hang out in the spicy, saucy marinade, they’ll cook in mere minutes on the grill. The recipe comes together with ease but the platter of perfectly grilled squid served simply with sliced bread and lemon wedges makes quite an impression. —Kelly Vaughan
cleaned baby squid (tubes and tentacles)
ground cayenne pepper
garlic clove, minced
Lemon wedges, for garnish
- In a small mixing bowl, combine smoked paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne and garlic, along with zest from the lemon. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, stirring until you have a smooth, runny paste.
- Juice the zested lemon into a second small bowl. Spoon in 2 tbsp of the paprika paste and stir until combined. Cover and set aside.
- Pour the remaining paprika paste into a large zip-seal bag. Add squid, and toss to coat evenly with marinade. Seal the bag closed and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.
- While the squid is marinating, soak bamboo skewers in cold water to prevent them from charring, and preheat a gas or charcoal grill on high heat.
- After 30 minutes, remove the squid bodies and tentacles from the marinade and gently thread onto skewers (I like to use two skewers to prevent the food from spinning around, but it's not entirely necessary). Discard the marinade.
- Place the skewers directly onto the preheated grill, and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side or just until the squid turn opaque. Remove from squid from heat immediately, and drizzle with the lemon juice and paprika mixture.
- Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread to mop up the sauce.