How to Cook Tender Octopus
Seriously, there are so many crazy ways to cook tender octopus… from beating it on a rock to slamming it against the side of your sink (ten times no less) to boiling it with wine corks. Or you can massage the cephalopod vigorously with lots of salt until it froths then plunge him into a copper pot full of boiling water. Or you can roast him in a 200°F oven for five (!) hours. Or try my simple fool-proof method below, cooking time five (!) minutes.
The cooking method actually depends on the type of product with which you start. Here I begin with one pound of Frozen Cooked Spanish Octopus Tentacles (Pulpo Cocido) which is readily available and easy to prepare. This product can be found in the frozen seafood section of Whole Foods Market. Surprisingly, unlike other seafood, octopus’ texture might even benefit from the freezing process so fresh octopus in not considered to be superior.
The octopus is from the Eastern Central Atlantic Ocean, a product of Spain. It has already been cleaned; tentacles have been separated from the head. It was cooked with salt and bay leaves, then frozen. Keep it frozen until the day before use, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Place thawed tentacles in a pot and cover with fresh water. Bring the water to a boil then turn down immediately to a low simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the tentacles from the pot and let cool slightly on a platter so they can be sliced.
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Bulgur and Burrata with Grilled Okra and Roasted Tomatoes
Basil, Oregano, Mint, Lemon
Garlic Ginger Olive Oil, Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Grilled Lodge Bread
The fresh crisp okra was surprisingly popular at the farmers market last weekend, I just had to join in the frenzy. If you like the taste but are not a fan of the mucilaginous properties of okra, this preparation will be for you. Okra brushed with olive oil and cooked over high heat for a short amount of time results in a very tasty charred veggie with only the tiniest hint of its unappealing characteristic.
Bulgur is an ancient whole grain that makes a nice addition to our rotation of favorite grains like farro, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats. Red bulgur is hard red wheat that has been parboiled and cracked. Its chewy texture and nutty flavor adds to the satisfying qualities of this meatless meal. The “hard red wheat” is also the type used in the Lodge Bread. Hard red wheat has more protein than its white counterpart.
The tomatoes were plentiful and popular as always. I roast the cherry tomatoes in a 375°F oven with olive oil and balsamic for a half hour to really concentrate their sweetness.
And who can resist burrata cheese…a mix of mozzarella and cream, it’s simply heavenly. It was super-fresh, made the day before, also a product of the Torrance Farmers’ Market where they feature top quality products from over 60 California farms.
More market items – lemon, basil, oregano, and mint add the tangy and herbaceous qualities to the meal. The addition of finely minced garlic and ginger add a pop to the olive oil, while aged balsamic vinegar brings sweet mellow notes.
And it’s very difficult to leave the Farmers Market without a loaf of fabulous Lodge Bread. Here I brush slices of Seeded Country Loaf with olive oil and grill until semi-burnt. That burnt charcoal flavor inspired the wine, a Zinfandel.
Mighty Satisfying Meatless Meal
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Peach, Quinoa, and Almond Milk Ricotta Salad/Grain Bowl
Toasted Almonds, Red Oak Lettuce, Mint, Basil
Olive Oil, Balsamic Syrup, Edible Flowers
Lemon Verbena Iced Tea
Hey! How’s your summer going? Hot enough for ya? Try this Peach, Quinoa, and Almond Milk Ricotta Salad/Grain Bowl – it’s a bright, light, and simply delicious summertime meal. Perfect for these sweltering days…there is no recipe per se, just a combination of healthful ingredients that have a particular affinity for each other, all arranged in a bowl. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan too.
Enjoy the salad/grain bowl al fresco along with refreshing Lemon Verbena Iced Tea – the high levels of essential oil contribute to a delightful citrusy aroma and lovely lemony flavor.
Peach, Quinoa, and Almond Milk Ricotta Salad/Grain Bowl
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Tamal de Cazuela
Don’t make it because it’s easier, make it because it’s great! Tamal de cazuela is a “tamale casserole” with all the fabulous flavors of our favorite Mexican tamales baked in a cast iron dish.
Labor-intensive traditional tamales are steamed individually in corn husks or banana leaves, resulting in a fluffy masa. Here, the masa is simply spread in a pan, filled with a meaty mixture, capped with more masa, then baked. It has a denser texture more like a sope, the process makes a terrific pie crust.
I often use leftover meat for my tamales. Have you tried my Hanukkah Tamales made from frozen brisket? This pie is made with my leftover braised short ribs (recipe here). For the filling, you can use any shredded meat (beef, pork, chicken) or even vegetables and beans to make a delicioso tamal de cazuela!
Once the tamal de cazuela is baked, let it cool slightly then slice into wedges. Serve the pie slices on plates and let guests garnish with lots of toppings of their choice:
- salsa roja
- salsa verde
- shredded cabbage
- cotija cheese
- sliced jalapeños
- lime wedges
- crema Mexicana
Tamal de Cazuela Recipe
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Squash Blossom Flatbread Pizza
Baby Zucchini, Epazote, Garlic, Monterey Jack Cheese
Two months ago my garden was bursting with arugula and borage, now the epazote has gone wild. This unique sawtooth herb with the curious aroma produces tons of seeds, so it is everywhere. Not to worry, in another month, it too will fade and be replaced by something else. I plant everything I like to cook with, and see where it goes…
In Mexican cooking, squash blossoms (flor de calabaza) are often paired with epazote. It is a heavenly match where the mild slightly-sweet nectar taste of the flowers is complimented by the petroleum-like aroma and the complex flavors of the herb.
In Oaxaca, cheese quesadillas are often flavored with epazote, so it naturally pairs well with the cheese on these flatbreads.
Squash Blossom Flatbread Pizza Recipe
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Golden Beets and Disneyland Roses
With its apricot-orange-pink coloration and delicate spice fragrance, the Disneyland Floribunda is the official rose of the magical kingdom. See this fabulous rose planted at the main gate turnstiles and throughout the park.
After a trip home from the farmers market, I noticed how similar the color of my golden beets were to the Disneyland roses blooming in my garden. They were begging to be photographed together.
Then I roasted the golden beets and this is where they ended up:
Golden Beets, Blistered Haricots Verts, Marinated Blackberries
Vanilla Skyr, Dukkah, Olive Oil, Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Golden earthy beets, tender green beans with a hint of smoky char, and sweet-tart blackberries all pair surprisingly well with creamy vanilla skyr. The nutty, toasty Egyptian spice mix adds depth and exotic notes to this savory-sweet, veggie-fruit combination.
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