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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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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Panko Crusted Halibut over Baby Bok Choy in a Miso Broth
Togarashi and Mitsuba Garnish
Summer is the time to enjoy fresh halibut from Alaska. This pristine lean fish with mild, sweet white flesh, large flakes and a firm but tender texture naturally pairs well with Japanese ingredients; miso, tamari, mirin, and toasted sesame. Harmoniously balanced, this dish is a stellar warm weather meal.
Mitsuba, a Japanese herb with a fresh, wild, sweet flavor adds the herbaceous notes. Taberu Togarashi Furikake can be found in Japanese markets. A tasty mixture of black sesame, red pepper, salt, white sesame, dried bonito, kelp, powdered plum, powdered red perilla – it enlivens the whole dish. Serve with fluffy white rice on the side if desired.
Alaskan Halibut, Japanese Flavors Recipe
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How To Make Spaghetti alla Chitarra
The chitarra, pictured above, is an implement that has been used for ages to make fresh noodles in the Abruzzo region of Italy. It has a wooden frame that is strung with several taut parallel wires, reminiscent of a guitar, hence the name “chitarra” which is “guitar” in English.
A long rectangle of pasta dough is pushed through the wires with a rolling-pin to make noodles. Although the instrument is old, my method is not. Below I show how to make Spaghetti alla Chitarra with a food processor to form the dough. Old World meets New World and fresh pasta noodles couldn’t be easier, or more fun!
Spaghetti alla Chitarra Recipe
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Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spiced Lamb Ragù
One of the most popular dishes of the Italian region of Abruzzo is spaghetti alla chitarra. It is also known as maccheroni alla chitarra – but the long noodles are more similar to spaghetti than what we call macaroni-shaped pasta, so “spaghetti” is often used outside of Abruzzo.
A chitarra is the implement used to make the noodles, it looks, and when strummed, sounds like a guitar, hence its name. It is a wooden frame that is strung with many parallel wires. A long rectangle of pasta dough is pushed through the wires with a rolling pin to make the noodles. I show how to make spaghetti alla chitarra in the next post, here.
A hearty lamb ragù is most often paired with these robust noodles. With its mountainous pastures and grassy plains, Abruzzo has been an ideal environment for sheep-farming for centuries. I’ve spiced my lamb ragù with toasted fennel, cinnamon, and oregano. It’s topped with pecorino, an Italian cheese made from ewe’s milk.
For fun, I styled and photographed the dish in the dramatic style of late 16th century Italian master painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.
Spiced Lamb Ragù Recipe
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Miso Aioli, Shiso, Carrot Cucumber Slaw
The complex herbal flavors of shiso (reminiscent of mint, lemon, anise, basil and curiously cinnamon) complement the sweet buttery taste of wild-caught Atlantic sea scallops. Miso aioli adds creamy, garlicky, umami characteristics. A refreshing crisp carrot cucumber slaw balances all those rich notes.
At the last minute, place a spoonful of slaw on top of each scallop, then serve one scallop per person for a palate-pleasing amuse-bouche. Big flavors, bold colors, eclectic textures create a stunning small bite to launch your next elegant dinner party.
Pan-Seared Scallops with Miso Aioli Recipe
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