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Get kraken in the kitchen

Happy Ash Wednesday, if “happy” can be appropriately used for this day of fasting and penitence! For the Catholics among the readers of this article, you have had your ashes placed on your forehead as a sign and reminder of your mortality and the need to repent. Today we eat no meat but it’s a good time to explore seafood. For the non-Catholics, eating the fruits of the ocean (or lakes, rivers, etc.) is beneficial to your health and a nice change from the usual meat that comes on two or four feet.

Calamari—the “edible” name for squid (or kraken if you try the giant kind)--is not something a lot of people consider when looking for a seafood meal. Let’s face it, they are gross to look at before they’re cooked, so if you eat out today or on the Fridays (also meatless) during Lent, or any time, you’re spared the sight of tentacles, ink, eyes, oh gaaaagggg…..Forget the description.

For the brave, adventurous cook, however, even if you’ve never cleaned ordinary fish before, it’s relatively simple in comparison to its scaly cousins. You chop off the head and tentacles (well, really, the tentacles are the only part easily identified) and gut the thing. Be sure to remove the long clear spine that resembles a piece of plastic. Some prefer to chop the squid into rings before cooking; others like to stuff it. Normal cooking methods are pan-frying, deep-frying, or grilling. Once you’ve decided to stuff your calamari, though, topping it off in the oven or toaster oven for a while helps. No matter how you prepare this food, you must remember, don’t overdo it or you’ll have something more like a bicycle inner tube.

What health benefits might you receive from the Mighty Sea Kraken? An abundance of minerals, as with any creature that lived its life in the deep, particularly copper, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Most fish and (as with this) mollusks are a good source of iron as well. Protein—lean, as with the majority of water-dwellers (since they swim around constantly, and we know what good exercise that is!)—is a prime advantage of squid as with other seafood. Granted, this species of cephalopod—related to the octopus—is rather high in cholesterol, but it’s quite unlikely you’ll be eating a large amount of it. Despite the unique and delightful taste (somewhat more delicate than its tentacled cousin) there is always the “ick factor” that makes people eat it in small amounts. Then, unless you’re buying and cooking it yourself, there will also be the price tag in restaurants.

Calamari is also a wonderful source of the B-vitamin complex. Most of us don’t get enough of these, especially B12 if you’re cutting back on animal protein. It’s a shame, since the hair, skin, nerves and muscles need these nutrients to thrive.

So give this denizen of the deep blue a chance in your diet, whether you’re bored with tuna for Lent or just want to try something unique and daring. You may find yourself enchanted by both the alluring flavorfulness of calamari and its healthy alternative role in your meals.

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