Easy Springtime Spanish Tapa Recipe: baby cuttlefish (sepionet), green garlic, and favas
I go to the Central Market in Valencia every week kind of like a ritual. I have my favorite vegetable stand, my "lettuce guy" who has a very minimalist stand and seems to mainly sell lettuces, my sausage place... I like seeing the changes of the seasons reflected in what the stands have to offer.
I was inspired to make this tapa - a typical one in tapas bars - of baby squid, green garlic, and favas, for a few reasons. First, green garlic and favas really signal spring to me. My vegetable seller has piles of green garlic tied into bunches with some kind of reed, like a compostable twisty tie. They also have a cool fava bean shelling machine which gives them little baggies of shelled fava beans to sell.
Secondly, I was in the mood to make something Spanish! I've often when going out, my friends are in the mood for hamburgers or sushi or Chinese food, and between that and my own cooking of things I miss from the US (other types of Chinese food, Mexican, anything with pulled pork), I realized that I don't get to eat as much Spanish food as I would like!
Finally, while I'm a pro at asking the chicken butchers for different cuts and preparations of chicken, and can make my way around the beef and pork butchers, I seem to get all of my seafood from the supermarket, rather than the Mercado. So this time, I set off to the part of the Mercado with the fish and seafood.
I found this pile of sepionet - baby sepia, or cuttlefish - which seemed promising. And at just 3.50€ for a quarter kilo, more than half a pound, it was cheaper than I expected.
The nice thing about buying the baby cuttlefish at the Mercado is that they remove hard cuttlebone from the middle for you. I read that actually for the little ones, that bone kind of pops out in the middle of cooking, but still it's nice to know that the cuttlefish are read to go from the bag to the pan with just a little rinsing (if you wish) in between.
The green garlic comes in a bunch of maybe about 8 shoots, and at the market they ask if you want them to chop off the very top of the garlic, the part you don't eat. I like to do that, since it saves space in my shopping bag.
And then I cut the rest into about 2-3 cm (inch-long) pieces, still discarding some of the greenest parts. I also cut up a couple garlic cloves.
From the vegetable seller, I get the shelled favas in the little baggies, about a cup and a half. And in Spain, they don't peel the outer membrane of the fava! I've found that you actually discard a ton of food that way, and besides, it's SO much easier to just dump the favas into the pan. While unpeeled favas might have a slight bitterness, I actually don't mind and like the extra texture that the outer membrane gives.
So to prepare, first sauté the green garlic and garlic with lots of olive oil - I used enough to cover the bottom of the pan. I threw in a couple dried chili peppers which I removed before serving.
After green garlic is soft (this could take ~5 minutes), dump in the whole favas.
After a couple minutes, I dropped in my 1/4 kg (half pound) of baby cuttlefish. These cook very quickly, and as you stir, they release their natural ink.
And here's the finished product!
All of that oil gets infused with the garlics, and the cuttlefish ink gives an extra dimension of flavor. With some crusty bread to mop up the oil, it's a wonderful tapa, or for me, a satisfying light lunch.
This tapa is really a 3-step dump-and-stir recipe! Something that one can come back to over and over.