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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Octopus Salad with Artichoke Hearts, Olives, and Caper Berries


This simple salad makes a stunning starter. I had the opportunity to cook some baby octopus and took the less-is-more approach. To preserve its tender texture I cooked it quickly, dressed it with olive oil and lemon, and tossed it with just a few other ingredients.

This salad is an example of why I like to have a jar of marinated artichoke hearts in my pantry. They're full of flavor and ready to dress up any course. You could use instead freshly cooked artichoke hearts, cleaned and quartered, or frozen thawed artichoke hearts. If your lemon isn't organic, use the juice but omit the zest.

  • 1 pound baby octopus, cleaned
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 organic lemon
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground peppercorn
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup caper berries, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup quartered marinated artichoke hearts

  1. Use a clean kitchen shears to separate the octopus heads from the tentacles. Cut the heads in halve lengthwise, through the fleshy neck area, and drop the pieces into a clean bowl. Cut the tentacles in half through the end where all of the legs meet. If they are especially big you can cut the halves in half again. Add them to the bowl with the heads. Peel and smash a fresh garlic clove, then add that as well.
  2. Toss the pieces of octopus with enough olive oil to coat.
  3. Zest about a quarter of the lemon into the bowl with the octopus and the rest into a separate, large, clean bowl. Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze about a tablespoon into the dish with the octopus and the rest into the bowl with the lemon zest.
  4. To both bowls, add a pinch each of red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  5. Toss the octopus with the seasonings until thoroughly coated. Set it aside to marinate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  6. To the other bowl containing the lemon zest and juice, add an equal amount of olive oil. Stir together and taste for seasoning. Make any necessary adjustments. Add the olives, caper berries, and artichoke hearts. Toss them in the lemon vinaigrette and set the mixture aside.
  7. After the octopus has had some time to marinate, warm a cast iron skillet, cast iron grill pan, or stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Pick up the pieces of octopus and let the marinade drip off before you drop them into the warm skillet. Don't move them around. As they cook, they will curl up and when they are ready to flip, they'll detach from the pan naturally. As they start to do this, add the marinade and continue cooking until the octopus are just cooked through. Give this your full attention because it will only take a few minutes and over-cooking octopus can make it chewy and tough. 
  8. As the octopus pieces become fully cooked, transfer them to the bowl with the artichoke heart mixture. Toss everything together, taste for seasoning, and make any necessary adjustments. Serve this salad immediately or cover and serve within two hours.

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