For my dad's birthday my mom really wanted to make a dinner he would love, and hopefully remember :-)
So she scoured through her Italian cookbooks to find a great recipe for insalata di polpo - octopus salad.
She settled on a recipe from Jamie's Italy, and sent me to Popular fish market in Newark's Ironbound district to retrieve the octopus.
Preparing the salad was much easier than we thought (well, all but the cleaning of the octopus). First we sauteed a bit of garlic, crushed red pepper, and lemon peel in extra virgin olive oil in a large deep skillet. We added a generous cup of dry white wine and once it boiled, added the octopus and reduced to simmer for 15 minutes. We threw in some mussels at the end of the steaming process as well. The rest of the recipe is even simpler - just chop up some veggies!
For one 3 pound octopus we diced one head of fennel (fronds reserved for garnish), 3 medium carrots and 3 celery stalks. The salad got a quick toss with an herb infused white vinegar and some chopped fresh parsley and was set aside to marinate. Once the octopus was cool enough we had to begin cleaning it, as in removing all the suckers and the purple rubbery outer layer. This was the hard part and luckily my mom tackled it!! Once tossed all together, we added a bit of the steaming liquid and seasoned it a bit more to taste with sea salt.
My mother chose another Jamie recipe for the pasta dish with - you guessed it - more seafood. Crushed chili flakes added a nice kick to the sun-dried tomato pesto that we thinned out a bit with some of the pasta water.
Fresh arugula and some grated pecorino romano cheese tossed in at the very end added a nice touch and some color contrast.
For the main course I made stuffed pork tenderloins. After butterflying the tenderloins I started with a layer of prosciutto and added a mixture of chopped spinach, parsley, garlic, and grated pecorino romano cheese. With the help of my mom, we tied them up nicely and browned the pork in a skillet before tossing it on the grill. A makeshift brush of rosemary and sage did double duty by adding extra flavor while applying an olive oil/salt + pepper mixture before grilling.
- Here's a look at all my February birthday boys -
Dad on the left, Poppy on the right, and Uncle Michael in the back