It’s been unseasonably warm here lately—the kind of weather that teases with hints of spring and makes me think it might be time to start weaning myself away from heavy, rib-sticking winter fare. There’s still an underlying chill to the air, though, especially at night, so the cravings for something comforting are hard to shake, even with the knowledge that tank tops and bathing suits are closer than they appear.
This hearty salad (from Suzanne Goin’s fantastic Sunday Suppers at Lucques) bridges the gap between the two: slick, spicy chorizo and crisp breadcrumbs mingle with seared, meaty squid and briny olives; a sharp vinaigrette cuts the richness and spinach provides just a hint of virtue.
And, really, in February, who needs more than a hint?
Warm Squid Salad with Spinach, Chorizo, and Black Olives
from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin
2½ pounds small squid, cleaned
2 lemons, zested
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
2 tablespoons sliced flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casing removed
1½ cups finely diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
10 ounces young spinach
1 cup cilantro leaves
½ cup diagonally sliced scallions
1 cup chopped pitted Nyons olives, or other strong-tasting black olives (I used Kalamatas.)
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1. Cut squid bodies crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick rings, and leave the tentacles whole. (If you’re using larger squid, cut the tentacles into quarters.) Season the tentacles and rings separately with the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon thyme, and the parsley for a few hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
3. Toss the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon thyme. Spread them on a baking sheet and toast 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil and wait about a minute. Crumble the chorizo into the pan, and cook 1 minute. Add the onion, garlic, and remaining 2 teaspoons thyme. Sauté 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the chorizo is cooked and the onion is translucent and starting to caramelize. Turn off the heat and set aside.
5. Place the spinach, cilantro, scallions, and olives in a large bowl, and toss to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 6 tablespoons olive oil. Set aside.
6. Drain the squid in a colander, and blot with paper towels to absorb the excess water.
7. Heat two large sauté pans over high heat for 3 minutes. Swirl 2 tablespoons olive oil into each pan, and wait 2 more minutes (the pan needs to be very hot to sear the squid). Divide the squid between the pans. Season each batch with 1 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, without stirring, allowing the squid to sear. Then stir with a wooden spoon, and cook another minute or two, until the squid is opaque and just cooked through. Drain the squid. Return the chorizo pan to high heat, and add the squid, stirring well to combine and coat well.
8. When the mixture is hot, add it to the bowl of spinach. Turn off the heat and add three-quarters of the vinaigrette to the pan and heat quickly, just until hot. Pour the hot vinaigrette over the spinach and squid. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Toss with tongs or large spoons to combine the ingredients. Taste for balance and seasoning, and add more vinaigrette if necessary.
9. Arrange the salad on a large platter, and scatter the breadcrumbs over the top.