Fresh calamari is slow-cooked until tender in a zesty homemade tomato sauce with Moroccan spices and herbs. The instructions call for preparing the dish in a clay tagine, which imparts unique, traditional flavor; if you don't have a tagine, you can use a deep skillet with lid instead.
Moroccan tradition is to gather around the communal tagine and eat by hand, using Moroccan bread to scoop up the seafood and sauce. As an alternative, however, you can serve the calamari and sauce atop beds of rice, pasta or couscous.
For other Moroccan seafood dishes, try Seafood Bastilla or Baked Fish Stuffed with Shrimp and Rice Vermicelli.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 to 5
- 1 1/2 lbs. (750 g) fresh, cleaned calamari
- 2 lbs. (about 1 kg) fresh, ripe tomatoes
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 1 bay leaf
- rosemary and za'atar to taste (optional)
- ------ For a Garnish ------
- chopped fresh parsley
- coarsely ground black pepper
- wedges of lemon
Cut the cleaned calamari into 1/4" to 1/2" rings. Coarsely chop the tentacles. Wash, drain and set aside.
Make the Tomato Sauce
Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes. (Or, if the tomatoes are very soft, you can cut them in in half, seed them and grate them.)
Place the base of a tagine over medium-low heat. (The use of a diffuser between the heat source and tagine is recommended.) Add the olive oil, onions and garlic and saute the herbs gently for several minutes, or until they begin to soften. Maintain the low heat, and be careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the tomatoes, spices and herbs, and stir to combine. Cover, and allow the tagine to slowly reach a simmer. Do not increase the heat to speed things up. Continue simmering the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes can be mashed with the back of a spoon and a thick sauce forms.
Cook the Calamari
Add the calamari to the tomato sauce, along with a few tablespoons of water, and cover. Cook the calamari for about one hour, or until the calamari is very tender and the sauce is thick. Do not be concerned if the calamari releases liquid into the sauce; this is desirable and it should reduce during the cooking. Conversely, if you feel that the calamari is not as tender as you'd like, but the sauce has already reduced, add a tablespoon or two of water to the tagine to thin the sauce for additional cooking time.
Discard the bay leaf and garnish the tagine with chopped parsley and a few turns of the pepper mill. Wedges of lemon may be offered on the side.