I had brunch near the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) yesterday morning so I decided to take advantage of being smack in the middle of “little Istanbul” directly afterwards. Went into Verdi, one of the better Turkish supermarkets in that area, just afterwards to stock up on Turkish essentials and favorites that I can’t get easily in my neck of the woods. Bought some salty string cheese, some fresh peas still in their pods, young garlic, some grape juice candy…etc. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make for dinner tonight, but because it’s been hot I figured some salads would be a good and easy way to go.
I keep running across nice octopus salad recipes – some with cucumbers, some with beans, some just marinated on their own…and so when I passed the fish counter and spotted a little one, just next to the salmon steaks, I thought…”why not?” Asked the guy to pack it up for me and as he was doing so, questioned him: “Ist er noch lebendig?” (“Is he still alive?”). The man turned around, confused. I asked again, this time just using a wiggle gesture, as if to suggest…”is he still squirming around in the bag?” The man smiled and shook his head and finished packaging it up.
This morning I unpackaged it (quite still) and started to sort through recipes.
My mom gave me a cookbook a year or two back called “New Greek Cuisine.” And I ended up adapting a recipe straight out of there for this little guy – octopus in a red onion and vinegar marinade. You poach the octopus first – in a bath of water, vinegar, lemon, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. First dunking it in (shocking it) for a few seconds – repeated three times – before you let it simmer for about 30 minutes (for small/baby octopus, bigger ones might take longer). Ultimately, you want it to be tender, not chewy. The shocking process helps retain the moisture while it boils. I assume a bit like chicken – sealing the pores and capturing the water within.
Meanwhile, you make the marinade – finely chopped onions mixed with sherry and red wine vinegar, a little sugar, some sumac powder, salt and oregano (I made do with fresh lemon thyme, as I had no fresh oregano.) That sits for a few hours chilling in the fridge, mellowing out the onions a bit.
An hour or two before you serve, you slice the octopus thinly and toss it with the marinade, adding in some olive oil. I also threw in a handful of sea beans because I still had some from last week.
In the end, I threw together a few more room temperature salads (grilled mushrooms with thyme, a yogurt/ricotta/herb spread, sauteed corn/peas/chilies/tomatoes with a squeeze of lime and handfuls of cilantro and mint. We ate them with Turkish breads. Glass of white wine.
Good option for a summer meal.