Preparing seafood dishes, is simple as long as you have the freshest and best ingredients to work with. Below are a few easy steps to help look for and prepare some common frutti di mare, or fruit of the sea.
HINT 1 Squid. What to look for: Squid should have bright, white flesh and greyish skin. They should smell vaguely like the ocean but not fishy at all. How to prepare them: In a strainer under cold water, peel off the skin and discard. Clean by removing all the organs, the ink sac, and the bony beak. Chop the body into rings (unless you are stuffing it), keeping the tentacles intact. Cook for 2 to 5 minutes or until tender.
HINT 2 Octopus. What to look for: Medium-sized octopus, about 2 to 3 lb., are easiest to work with. Make sure they have no fishy smell. How to prepare them: Add the whole octopus to a pot of cold water and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour until tender. Turn off the heat, but leave it in the water for 10 minutes. This makes the skin easier to remove.
HINT 3 Mussels and Clams. What to look for: Discard mollusks with broken shells. If you find open shells, tap them together. If they close, they’re fine; if they pop open again, discard them. Mollusks should smell fresh and not fishy. Mediterranean mussels and Manila or littleneck clams work best in these dishes. How to prepare them: Scrub to remove grit. Mussels need to be debearded—grab the fibrous beard and pull it off.
HINT 4 Scallops. What to look for: Avoid scallops with a fishy smell. Color can range from beige to creamy pink. Be aware that bright white scallops may have been soaked in water to increase their weight and their price. How to prepare them: Remove the tough muscle strip and cook scallops briefly (1 to 2 minutes per side) until they are opaque.
HINT 5 Shrimp. What to look for: Shrimp naturally range in color from grey to slightly reddish. Avoid shrimp that smell fishy. How to prepare them: Remove from heat when they become opaque, anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes.