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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seafood Salad with Octopus


I love seafood salads, especially in the summer. In this one I used octopus and shrimp, but you could easily substitute firm white fish, squid, crab, or even lobster. If seafood is expensive or your choices are limited, toss a cup or two of cooked chickpeas into the salad and garnish the top with half the amount of seafood.

Octopus tends to get tough and rubbery, so I always cook it in a pressure cooker to ensure it  stays tender. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can simmer it slowly on the stove until it becomes tender, which can take an hour or more. 

This recipe calls for olives and caper berries. I used a combination of olives - Kalamata and green - but you can use any olives you like. I like to use caper berries because they have roughly the same shape and size of olives and cherry tomatoes. If need be, substitute capers, the small unopened flower buds of the same plant. 

For a fresh herb flavor, I added cilantro. You can use any fresh herb you like. Dill or basil would also be very good.

2-pound octopus at room temperature
2 tablespoons cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground peppercorn
1/2 pound peeled wild shrimp like pink shrimp or spot prawns at room temperature
1 organic lemon
2 cloves garlic
1 cup pitted olives
1 roasted red pepper, finely chopped
1 fresh chili pepper, any color, thinly sliced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes (any color)
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts 
1/2 cup halved caper berries, halved or quartered, or substitute 1/4 cup capers 
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems

Cook the octopus for 15 minutes in a pressure cooker according to manufacturer instructions. Cool down the cooker with cold water. Reserve the cooking liquid in the pot and lift out the octopus. Place it on a plate to cool.


Bring the cooking liquid to back a boil in the pressure cooker, uncovered. As soon as it starts to simmer, turn off the heat, drop in the shrimp and place the lid on top. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes. (Cooking the shrimp with residual heat prevents them from getting tough and rubbery.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, salt, and pepper with the zest and juice of the lemon (approximately 1 tablespoon of loosely packed zest and 2 tablespoons of juice). Smash the garlic cloves and add them whole. Stir in the olives, roasted red pepper, and chili pepper and set aside.

Strain the shrimp after 5 minutes, reserving the cooking liquid for another use (excellent in seafood soups and sauces). Transfer the shrimp to the bowl with the sauce and toss until they are evenly coated. Set them aside.

Once the octopus has cooled enough to handle, use a sharp kitchen shears to cut off the legs. Cut each leg into bite-size pieces, dropping them into the bowl with the shrimp as you go. Cut the head off the octopus and cut it into bite-size pieces as well. Because it's already been cleaned, you can eat the whole thing. Trim as much tender meat off the middle part as you can, avoiding the hard beak in the center. Discard the beak or save it for making seafood broth or freeze it for later.

Toss everything together until the octopus is evenly coated with the lemon sauce. Finish cooling the mixture to room temperature.

Cover and transfer to the fridge for 24 to 48 hours. Stir occasionally, if you think of it.

Just before serving, toss everything one more time. Remove the garlic cloves or thinly slice them and add them back in. Stir in the tomatoes, scallions, caper berries, and cilantro. Transfer the salad to a serving dish (covered with a bed of lettuce if you wish) and serve immediately while still cold.

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