Learn to eat seasonally, with friends, in A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis, including recipes for a Tapas Party, like Octopus Salad with Pickled Onions and Pimentón; Potato and Salt Cod Tortilla; Sea Scallops ala Plancha; Black Paella with Squid and Shrimp; and Membrillo and Sheep's-Milk Cheese.
Octopus salad is one of the most delectable things I know. Octopus is tricky: if you let it boil, it will toughen. Simmered slowly—and I mean really slowly—in an aromatic broth, you coax it into staying tender. The meat emerges succulent and savory. Pimentón is a flavorful smoky Spanish paprika available sweet (dulce) or hot (picante); Pimentón de la Vera is the best. The octopus's inherent sweetness is offset by a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of smoky pimentón.
Rinse the octopus and, if it hasn't been cleaned, trim off the ink sac, beak, and eyes. Put it in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add the bay leaf, thyme, onion, garlic, chile, and coriander seeds. Add a splash of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Cover the pot and bring just to a boil, then turn down the heat to low.
Simmer slowly for 45 minutes to an hour, never allowing the broth to boil.
Check to see if the octopus is tender by probing with the tip of a paring knife. Remove the octopus from the broth and let cool to room temperature. (Reserve the savory broth to use in fish soup or Black Paella with Squid and Shrimp.)
When the octopus is cool, separate the tentacles with a sharp knife. Rub the tentacles with your fingers to remove any loose skin, then cut the tentacles into 1/4-inch chunks. Keep at cool room temperature until ready to serve, or refrigerate for up to several hours, or overnight.
To serve, pile the octopus chunks onto a platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Dust lightly with pimentón. Surround with the pickled onions. Supply diners with toothpicks or small skewers for communal snacking.
Slice 1 red onion into thin rings. Boil the onion slices in salted water for 1 minute. Drain and put the onion slices on a plate. Sprinkle with red wine vinegar. Let cool.
This page created December 2008
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