Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Squid Bliss: Rosemary grills the calamari of her dreams

Back in the middle 2000s, when Harrisburg’s downtown restaurant scene, known as Restaurant Row, was drawing big crowds and new places were opening everywhere, my husband had a meal that he still talks about. It was at Stock’s on 2nd, the longtime dining establishment and bar owned by Stephen and KJ Weinstock.

Stock’s was different back then—a more formal restaurant, maybe even a “special occasion” place where reading the menu was as much fun as eating the innovative food.

He ordered something he had only seen on a menu once in Italy and hasn’t seen anywhere since—a calamari (squid) “steak.” I think it was grilled and served on a bed of greens and likely drizzled with a type of balsamic glaze. He loved it.

To this day, when we get to know a chef at one of our favorite restaurants downtown, he will ask, “Can you get calamari steak?” Some have promised to search but to no avail.

Now, in truthfulness, I think what he dined on that evening was simply a very large calamari body that someone called “steak.”

Many restaurants and bars serve fried calamari. Sammy’s on 3rd Street in Harrisburg serves theirs with a wonderful ginger dipping sauce. It is unique and worth a try.

On other occasions, the closest we got to non-fried calamari was at Suba, the wonderful tapas bar formerly atop the Mediterranean restaurant, Mangia Qui, on North Street in Harrisburg. The calamari, cut into rings, were served in little ramekins with lots of browned garlic and bathed in a vinegary sauce. It was a popular menu item that we ordered frequently.

So, I’ve been searching for a calamari recipe for my husband that doesn’t involve frying or being tossed into red sauce for pasta. Since the Baer family is sporting a new gas grill, I began researching all my grilling cookbooks and magazines for a recipe for grilled calamari that would be “do-able” at home. I found a good one. I generally like hot and spicy food, but I’ve eliminated the 13 fresh red Thai chilis that were called for here and substituted some Calabrian chili paste and additional red bell pepper. If you like calamari, you will have fun with this at home.


Cooking Light’s Barbecued Calamari (Squid)


  • 1½ pounds whole cleaned squid (calamari bodies). If you are buying fresh ones, ask for the largest the fish vendor has. No need for the tentacles in this recipe.
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili paste or garlic red chili paste (calibrate amounts to your liking)
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 3 large peeled shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 one-inch piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lower sodium soy sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Non-stick cooking spray



  • Make small, crosswise cuts across each squid body.
  • Place the bell pepper, chili paste, garlic cloves and shallots in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely ground.
  • Pulse in the sugar, soy sauce, black pepper and salt.
  • Place 2/3 cup of this mixture in a zip-top bag with the squid. Marinate the squid for 3 hours, turning the bag occasionally.
  • Save the remaining sauce for dipping.
  • Pre-heat your grill to medium heat and coat the grates with a non-stick spray. Weber makes a good one as does PAM. It’s important not to skip this step as calamari are very delicate and will stick and tear.
  • Remove the calamari from the plastic bag and discard that marinade.
  • Place each squid on your well-oiled grill racks for 2 minutes on each side, until slightly charred, and the edges begin to curl a bit.
  • Remove to a platter and serve with the remaining sauce.

If you are a fan of eating calamari at restaurants and bars, you might have had the experience of getting some that are tough and rubbery. That is why it is so important not to overcook these delicate little creatures.

You can experiment with adding more “heat” to your marinade, and you can use any hot chili peppers you like. Sliced cucumbers in a light vinaigrette are a nice accompaniment to the calamari and contrast nicely with the spicy seafood.

You can serve these as appetizers with a nice cold beer. But for my husband, they are dinner!

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