Grilled Skewers of Calamari and Shrimp on a bed of Orzo, Artichokes, and Pine Nuts

    Wow, that’s a mouthful!  And a delicious mouthful at that!  I tried to shorten the title, honest, but I just couldn’t come up with something shorter that would convey all the yumminess of these recipes.  And…we are talking about two recipes here, friends!  They may sound fancy or complicated, but really are pretty simple to prepare and really good.    
    Now, I realize that I’m sharing this in the middle of January, but it would make a great summer meal also.  You can use a grill (indoor or outdoor) or broiler for the seafood (it only takes 4 minutes!) and the orzo dish can be served warm or at room temperature.  So….no heating up the kitchen for hours! 

    Today’s recipes come from two different places.  The orzo recipe was in a newsletter I received recently from Cookies From Italy.  The recipe for the skewers is from Biba’s Taste of Italy by Biba Caggianno.  The recipes in this cookbook are from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy which, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is in the northern part of the country.  O.k.,  here are the recipes.  Enjoy!
Calamari and Shrimp Skewers      (serves 4)
 3/4 pound calamari bodies (no tentacles), cleaned
1 1/2 pounds med. shrimp, peeled (very last section of shell and tail left on) and deveined  (I used 1 pound jumbo shrimp….16-25 count)
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup fine dried breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges, for serving
    For this recipe I bought my calamari and shrimp frozen.  The calamari was packaged already cleaned with the bodies separated from the tentacles.  The shrimp were still in their shells, but the shells had been split open along the back and they had been deveined.  So, I gave the calamari a quick rinse and dried them on paper towels.  Then I cut them into 1 1/2″ wide rings.  I removed all of the shrimp shells except the last section and the tail, rinsed them quickly, and patted them dry.
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    Now……mix the garlic, olive oil, parsley, and breadcrumbs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Add the squid and shrimp and toss  together to coat everything well.  Cover the bowl and marinate at room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
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    Preheat your grill or the broiler.  Thread the squid onto metal or wooden skewers, pressing the breadcrumb mixture back onto the squid if you need to.  Thread the shrimp onto separate skewers in the same way.  (They cook at different times, so don’t mix the shrimp with the squid on the same skewers.)
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    Now place the shrimp skewers on the hot grill or on a baking sheet under the broiler and cook until a golden crust forms on one side, about 2 minutes.  Now, turn them over and add the calamari skewers to the grill or sheet pan.  Cook for 1 minute, turn the calamari, and cook for 1 minute more, til everything is golden. (If you cook the calamari for more than 1-2 minutes total, they will become tough and rubbery.)  
    Remove them and serve right away with lemon wedges, if desired.
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    And now……….for the side dish.
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Orzo with Artichokes and Pine Nuts    (serves 4)
1 1/2 cups orzo
3 tblsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
14 oz. can whole artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tblsp. red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

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This is orzo; it looks like rice, doesn’t it?  But it’s pasta.  Cook in salted water, as any other pasta, to al dente (about 6 minutes).  Then drain.

One more thing to prep…the artichokes.  Pull off the leaves from the bases and quarter the bases.  Rinse the bases and the leaves well and drain. 

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    Place the orzo, pine nuts, artichoke leaves and bases, parsley, and lemon zest in a bowl.  Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and pour over the other ingredients.  Toss to combine.
And there you go….A nice seafood meal any month of the year!

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