Imagine yourself at a beautiful two person mosaic tiled table, in a Greek cafe, leaning back against the cool of the white washed plaster wall, in the shade, away from the blazing sun. There is a glass of ice cold crisp local white wine in your hand, or maybe some tangy ouzo… and across from you is the love of your life. You turn slightly and look out at the turquoise blue sea, the briny air penetrating and clean… carrying the scent of the wild thyme and mint on the hillsides. The waiter with the white apron brings two plates of the house specialty, octopus marinated in red wine vinegar, olive oil lemons, garlic and oregano… and then grilled on searing hot charcoal. And on the side, marinated gigantes beans and seared arugula. Sometimes life is perfect.
This is often our dinner on the patio… incredibly romantic, because Greece is a state of mind. Opa!
Ingredients for boiling, if the octopus is uncooked…
2 pounds octopus tentacles, tenderized and pre-boiled
1 lemon, cut up into chunks
1/4 cup black peppercorns
4 cloves of garlic
2 cups white wine, just enough to barely cover the octopus
4 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme or oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 stalks Italian parsley
Octopus, (usually previously frozen in the States), requires some tenderizing. Place the tentacles, two or three at a time, and place them in a plastic bag. Using a mortar or a mallet, pound them a few times. Place them in a 10 inch pan and add all the ingredients listed above. Simmer the octopus for about 40 minutes (less time is needed if they have been frozen, which serves to tenderize them already). They tend to curl at first so I place a small plate over them and a weight on it. Octopus is almost half water, and as those waters are released, they will completely cover the octopus (and the octopus will be about half the size it was before, consider that when you determine how much to buy). Stick a sharp knife in them to make sure they are tender, the knife should go in easily. Cover and let cool in the juices.
Ingredients for marinade…
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
3 lemons, squeezed
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
salt to taste
lots of black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
Saute the onion in olive oil till opaque, add garlic and oregano, saute till aromatic and remove from heat. Add lemon juice, red wine vinegar, red wine and peppers, marinate overnight, at least 12 hours.
When you are ready to grill, first heat the marinate till reduced to half a cup, set aside.
A big part of the flavor is the burned bits that occur when grilled over the intense heat of charcoal or wood coals, as well as the smoky flavor. Gas grills work as long as the heat is intense. Once the coals or charcoal is white hot, place on a grill and sear both sides for 4-5 minutes, brushing on the marinate.
Then remove from the heat, place on plate, pour on the remaining marinate and serve.
Rebekah prefers to treat the octopus like grilled lobster and she dips them in a lemon butter sauce. Amazingly wonderful taste with the smoke and the fire and the sea. Enjoy!