This is a recipe that islanders enjoy in the spring, during Lent, when the first wild fennel sprouts. The perky, aromatic, licorice-like flavor of fennel is a beautiful match for the fleshy cuttlefish. You can use large squid in place of the cuttlefish.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 2¼ pounds (1 kg) cuttlefish (sepia), preferably fresh,* or squid
- ½ cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
- 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 1 fennel bulb with fronds, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1½ cups medium sherry
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large bunch wild fennel or dill snipped
- 1 grated lemon juice and peel
- If using fresh cuttlefish, use gloves to clean it because the ink will turn your hands black. To clean: Gently pull away the tentacles. Using your fingers, scoop out the viscera and discard. If the ink sac is intact, set it aside. Pull out the cartilaginous bone on the inside of the cuttlefish and discard. Rinse the cuttlefish gently under cold water. If they are large, cut them into strips 1 inch (2 cm) thick. If using small cuttlefish, leave intact, frozen cuttlefish is already cut into rings. If using squid, clean and cut into large rings.
- To prepare the ink, place a coffee filter in a small fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl and press the ink sac with gloved fingers so that it breaks and a few drops of ink drip into the bowl.
- In a large, wide pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add leek, onion, and fennel bulb, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a minute or two, to soften.
- Place the cuttlefish in the pot and stir gently. Pour in the sherry, ink (if using), and salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, until the cuttlefish is almost cooked and tender, about 45 minutes. Add the wild fennel and continue cooking for another 15 minutes or so. Right before the end, stir in the lemon peel and juice. Serve.