Charred octopus is tossed with fennel, a variety of citrus and a tangy dressing for a perfect grilled summer salad.
Sunday afternoon is my jam.
It’s a day where happy hour at home feels right. A time away from the errands, the emails and a moment to just sink into a state of relaxation before being flung into the (hopefully not too hectic) start of the week. Sunday afternoon is the time to whip up small bites, pour a crisp glass of wine and enjoy the late summer sun on the front stoop with the mister and a few friends.
One of my favorite summer dishes is a bright fennel salad topped with smokey charred octopus. And after enjoying this dish at several local spots, I thought it was time to bring matters into my own hands and recreate the recipe – you know, share the love…because everyone needs this in their summer-lovin’ life.
The salad is incredibly complex with flavors and texture. The tangy dressing gets lifted with notes of spicy chilies and salty olives. The citrus cuts and adds an extra note of freshness to the charred octopus. Is it possible to have a crush on a dish because…done!
I paired this summer plate with a sweet vinho verde that is crisp, bright and not too sweet. The slight effervescence really adds to the playfulness of the dish and is quite refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. This is truly the happiest of hours – In fact I could enjoy this combo every week until autumn kicks us out.
If the task of cleaning and boiling your own whole octopus freaks you out a little – Don’t fret! We know it’s intense. Most WholeFoods markets have pre-cooked tentacles ready for you to pop onto the grill…or you can check with your local specialty market to cook one up for you in advance.
If you want to steer clear from our 8 legged friend entirely…no worries. Try this salad with grilled shrimp or white fish, it’s even 100% fantastic on its own without a protein.
Step by Step Guide to Making Grilled Octopus and Fennel Citrus Salad
- Octopus Preparation:
- Begin with a whole defrosted octopus.
- In a large pot, combine the octopus with half a white onion, two celery ribs, two carrots, a small handful of flat parsley, four garlic cloves, a teaspoon of peppercorns, half a lemon cut into wedges, and half a cup of water.
- Cooking the Octopus:
- Set the pot on medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Let the octopus cook until tender. This should take between 45 to 90 minutes. Begin checking for tenderness after the first 30 minutes and then at 10-minute intervals thereafter.
- Once cooked, remove the octopus from the pot and let it come to room temperature.
- Detach the legs from the octopus body. Lightly toss them in olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
- Grill the octopus legs on a barbecue until they are slightly blackened, which should take approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Preparing the Salad Components:
- Pickled Red Chilies: Start by finely mandolining two fresh red peppers. Quickly pickle them in either rosato vinaigrette or white balsamic. Allow them to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Citrus Preparations: Carefully de-segment half an orange and half a pink grapefruit. Coarsely chop the segments and set them aside.
- Fennel: Use a mandoline to finely slice the fennel bulb. Spread these slices out on your serving plate.
- Assembling the Salad:
- To the fennel on the serving plate, add the coarsely chopped parsley, green olives, and the previously prepared pickled red peppers and citrus segments.
- Drizzle your salad with the white balsamic vinaigrette.
- White Balsamic Vinaigrette Preparation:
- In a bowl, whisk together 4-5 tablespoons of rosato vinaigrette (or white balsamic), a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of pink grapefruit juice, and 1 tablespoon of orange juice.
- Final Presentation:
- Once the salad is fully dressed, top it with two of the charred octopus legs.
- For a final touch, sprinkle finely chopped chives over the salad for an added layer of flavor and visual appeal.