Insalata di Polpo con le Patate

Octopus and Potato Salad

Thanks to millennia of overfishing, the Tyrrhenian Sea is rather impoverished. The most abundant species are small oily fish like anchovies and mackerel and cephalopods like squid and octopus. This octopus salad is inspired by Basilicata’s short coastline, where octopi are fished from the sea, and the inland fields yield waxy potatoes. Blanched green beans offer a bit of crunch and textural contrast.

To clean an octopus, separate the head from the body with a sharp knife just between the eyes and legs. Remove and discard the eyes and scrape out the entrails and ink sack from the head and discard, as well.

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds octopus, cleaned

Zest of 1 lemon, removed with a vegetable peeler

Zest of 1 orange, removed with a vegetable peeler

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, toasted and crushed

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 small white onion, halved

1 cup dry white wine

1 pound new potatoes

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), plus more as needed

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup Gaeta olives, rinsed, pitted, and halved lengthwise

½ pound young green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

Sea salt

Place the octopus, lemon peel, orange peel, peppercorns, bay leaf, rosemary, onion, and wine in a large pot. Cook over medium heat, allowing the octopus to cook in its own juices (after a minute or two, it will start to lose water). Cover and cook until the octopus is fork tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and allow the octopus to cool completely in its own juices, about 30 minutes. Cut into 1-inch segments.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a separate large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Salt the water (see page 000). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook the potatoes until fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and allow to cool slightly. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.

While the octopus and potatoes are cooling, in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mint, parsley, and pepper.

Add the potatoes to the bowl and toss with the vinaigrette while still warm, then add the octopus, and olives.

Fill a medium bowl with ice and water. Fill the cleaned pot used to boil the potatoes with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Blanch the green beans in the boiling water for 1 minute, working in batches as needed. Drain the green beans and immediately plunge them into the ice water bath. Drain again.

Add the green beans to the bowl with the octopus. Toss well, season with salt and pepper, and add more olive oil as needed. (Warm potatoes can absorb a lot of oil, so you may need a bit more than suggested.) Serve immediately.

Recipe from Food of the Italian South. Photo by Ed Anderson.