I was sitting out on the balcony a few minutes after sunset, when I paused the summer.
The past few weeks have been very busy with cooking classes and a book to finish. I needed to find the strength for that final push in order to write the last chapters. To do that, I needed to put the summer on hold, to not let myself be carried away by that light summer feeling of careless abandonment, typical during the sunshine season. No more distractions, but only for a few days.
Thus, I gave into it for ten minutes, absorbing it all, taking strength from the summer in order to ignore it for a while. Summer is a woman who does not like to be put to one side, but we were able to come to an agreement. Pressing pause for a few days in exchange for a longer-term consideration, a season-long embrace. I listened to the cicadas on the acacia tree in front of the window, who, bit by bit, quietened, allowing the sounds from the crickets to come through, from the hedge lower down, and from the frogs at the bottom of the valley. The sky, previously lit up with the colours of the sunset, had faded, allowing the blue night-time sky to creep through. The wheat fields, sun-kissed throughout the day, are now bathed in the moon’s pallor. I was ready to push pause, but only for a few days.
I then made an octopus summer salad, with pine nuts and olives. I savoured it as it was the last, succulent peach before autumn arrives and dedicated some time to my book.
And now I am back.
When I first began cooking, I was afraid of two things: octopus and the pressure cooker. I imagined apocalyptic scenes where my pressure cooker suddenly turned itself into a weapon of mass destruction. The same thing happened with the octopus. I was afraid that it would remain tough and leathery, even after hours of cooking, or worse still, I imagined it burning, agonisingly stuck to the bottom of pan, which would need to be thrown away.
Chance would have it that all my fears would be calmed with an octopus salad, cooked in a pressure cooker. I discovered that the pressure cooker is not only easy and safe to use, but also a great ally for when time is tight in the kitchen, but you still want to eat well and healthily. Pulses, whole grains and steamed vegetables cook in half the time, retain their flavour and let me plan out the meals I prefer, those filled with colours and freshness.
Octopus, cooked in a pressure cooker, cooks in less than fifteen minutes and stays tender, ready to be cut and made into a salad, along with the classic steamed potatoes and a lot of garlic and parsley, or a more refreshing version with green olives and pine nuts.
Today begins a collaboration with Lagostina, who will be with us over the coming months, to explore various cooking methods for cooking the way I like, light and fun, using genuine recipes that taste of home and remind you of tables filled with friends and laughs. Today, as you might have understood, we are talking about the pressure cooker ‘la Preziosa®’ from Lagostina.
Octopus salad, with olives and pine nuts
Picture a silent kitchen, at twilight, holding the outside summer heat at bay. Add a wooden cutting board, an octopus the same colours as a summer sunset at the seaside, tangy and refreshing green olives and pine nuts, smelling of sunburnt maquis. All of this is joined together with a drizzle of olive oil, fruity and light, and within just under half an hour you’ll be able to prepare an octopus salad, for an early summer dinner, to be served as an appetiser or as a main dish.
- 1 kg of octopus defrosted and cleaned
- 2 spoons of de-stoned green olives
- 2 spoons of pine nuts
- Extra virgin olive oil
Dip the octopus three times, holding it by its head, in a pan of boiling water. This will curl the tentacles.
Place the octopus in the pressure cooker, cover with 250 ml of water before closing the pressure cooker, making sure that the safety valve is turned towards the wall and that the operating valve is closed and aligned with the handle.
Place the pressure cooker over a medium/high flame and wait until the steam coming out of the operating valve emits a light whistling noise, a persistent one. When this happens, reduce the heat to a minimum flame and count the cooking time from this point.
Cook the octopus for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and open the operating valve. Wait until the pressure cook stops whistling and open it to check on the cooking of the octopus.
It will be tender, easy to pierce with a fork.
Leave the octopus in its water to cool down - this will make it more tender.
Once the octopus has cooled, cut it into rounds, leaving the curled tentacles intact. Place the octopus into a bowl along with the de-stoned green olives, cut into rounds, and the pine nuts, toasted for a few minutes in a pan.
Season with a drizzle of a light extra virgin olive oil and leave it all to soak and become flavourful in the fridge, for at least and hour, before bringing it back to room temperature and then serving.
How many octopus salad can you possibly make? There is virtually no limit to the imagination, to the ingredients to match the octopus, to the way to season it… These are some of the possible variants that I found and captured my attention. Which is your favorite?
- Two recipes by Ottolenghi, one especially appetizing with octopus, lentils and oregano.
- A Japanese take on octopus salad, by Just One Cookbook.
- A Mexican octopus salad, from Simply Recipes, known as ensalada de pulpo, with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and chiles. It’s fabulous as a side or topped over tacos or tostadas.
- Last but not least, I could not resist this Greek Grilled Octopus.