In most Sicilian restaurants it is common to see octopus salad on menus. Generally it is in the antipasto section, and in many restaurants this is presented as a whole octopus on a plate. On some occasions I have eaten it as a warm salad simply dressed with oil, lemon juice, chopped parsley and spring onion. Sometimes it includes chopped red chilies and/or garlic.
As a cold salad the octopus is usually sliced into thick chunks and marinated in the dressing for at least a few hours beforehand.
The photo of the octopus salad was taken in a restaurant In Mazara del Vallo (south of Marsala on the west coast). It contains spring onions, celery and basil. The feature photo is from Naples.
This particular recipe salad contains a few more ingredients than the simple salad described above.
Octopus, like squid, either has to be cooked very quickly or for a very long time, and of course the fresher the better. In several fish markets in various cities in Sicily, I have seen live octopus kept in a bucket of sea water. The vendor will kill the octopus when the buyer is ready to take it home. As you can imagine, this sight is quite upsetting.
octopus, about 3 kilos (it shrinks). I prefer to buy the large ones rather than baby octopus which is usually imported from overseas.
carrots, 2 -3 sliced into rounds, thin
celery, 4 stalks, the light green ones from the centre of the celery and some of the tender leaves
fresh mint leaves, to taste
green olives, a handful (schiacciate are the best)
lemons, 2 sliced into thin slices and the juice of 2 others for the dressing
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
garlic, 1-2 cloves chopped, or 1-2 sliced spring onions
salt and freshly ground pepper or chopped fresh chili
Clean the octopus, turn out the body and empty it, remove the eyes and the beak at the base of the tentacles, then rinse the octopus under cold running water.
Place the octopus into a saucepan with sufficient cold water to cover it.
Bring slowly to the boil and simmer until it can easily be pricked by a fork (for about 5-10minutes).
Add the salt, take it off the stove and allow the octopus to remain in the water to finish cooking for an extra 15 minutes.
Prepare the salad ingredients, slice the carrots, the celery, chop the mint and celery leaves, add the lemon slices and the green olives (no stone).
Make the dressing by combining the lemon juice, olive oil, chopped garlic/onions.
Drain the octopus and remove any offending skin. Slice the octopus and place it into a serving bowl with the salad ingredients, salt and pepper.
Toss the octopus salad.
Serve warm or marinate and present it cold.