This is an extremely fresh way to be introduced to octopus. This salad is ideal to be served in a hot summer day, above all if you are back from the beach.
Italy has an incredibly wide range of fish and seafood, and as many recipes to cook them. Throughout the country, Octopus is a favourite dish. It is an extremely clever animal, but unfortunaly for it, its meat is extremely tasty, low in fats, but rich in good cholesterol, like prawns and other crustaceans.
I was introduced to the joys of octopus quite late – in my mid-20s – by some friends from Civitavecchia who came to visit with some of them, caught by their father. These cephalopods live in rocky coasts. Hailing from the sandy coast of the northern Adriatic coast, I had never seen it. In these past few decades, Italy has been discovering the cuisines of other regions, and it is common to see it in seafood restaurants all over Italy.
When the octopus is fresh, it is extremely tough. The new way to deal with the problem is provided with technology. (see recipe). The old way, that is quite grisly for my taste, has been turned into a touristic show in the old Harbour of Bari. It consists of pounding the octopus on the rocks for hours. Another technique consists of beating it with a stick until the color changes from red to white. Then it is washed in a basin on a tilting stool until it curls. For more info look here.
- 1 octopus 1 medium, 3 ½ -4 pounds, thawed (1½-2kg),
- 2 celery stalks, cut roughly
- 1 onion, cut roughly
- 2 tbsp black olives
- 3 potatoes, medium
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 handful flat parsley leaves
- flaky sea salt and black pepper
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
In a pot boil the potatoes for about 20-30 minutes.
In another one join the octopus, cold water, salt, celery, carrots and onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until octopus is tender, about one hour.
Important note: in order to stay soft, octopus should not suffer thermal shock: leave it in the water until it is room temperature.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces, do the same with octopus.
Combine olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and garlic and blend them using an immersion blender.
In a large mixing bowl, gently combine the octopus and potatoes with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper and add the olives.
It should be served tepid. If you prepare it some hours ahead it should be kept in the fridge and then put it in the microwave.
Freezing and then thawing the octopus breaks down the toughness in the cellular structure of the flesh. It is the best way to soften it; otherwise, it would be rubbery.
In Italy frozen octopus is sold already cleaned of the guts, still you need to discard the eyes and the beak.