Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Octopus Cookery

What you may not realize about octopus is that it needs to be pre-cooked for approx-imately 1 to 2 hours (depending on your method) before it becomes edible. Octopus, apparently, is a tough meat.

When I purchased my first octopus, really just a lone tentacle (enough for a single girl), I imagined that it was something like squid, which I have also never cooked. However, I have a distinct sense of how one cooks squid and no one has ever disabused me of this notion. Squid, in my mind, is cooked on a grill, quickly and with minimal fuss. This method is easily adaptable to a sautee pan at home, with a little olive oil and maybe a splash of white wine.

Having purchased my first octopus tentacle at my local fish market, I was ready to sautee myself a little octopus to accompany a salad of arugula and tomato with a lemon caper vinaigrette. With uncharacteristic caution, I checked the internet to ensure that I was correct in my views about octopus cookery. This is where I learned about the pre-cooking. That night, I ate bread and cheese.

I was prepared the next evening, however, and returned home sufficiently early to pre-cook the octopus. I tossed it in a pot with a few pieces of lemon and onion, left it on simmer and retreated to my computer to entertain myself for the next hour or two before my dinner was ready. Well, one thing led to another, and before I knew it more than an hour had passed without me having checked on my tentacle. When I did finally get myself into the kitchen, the water had completely evaporated from the pot, leaving a rock solid layer of brimstone on the bottom. The effect was somewhere between poaching and barbecuing and the octopus was delicious. I would recommend the method, but for the expense of purchasing a new pot.

Subsequently, I tried my first ever "melt in your mouth" octopus at Carballeira (c/Reina Cristina 3 (between the Borne and the Old Port), tel: 933 10 10 06). Go with someone you know and love as the lighting is a little searing for a first date.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Figs In Flagrante

If figs were sex, the ones available in Canada would be the equivalent of your Wednesday night appointment with a spouse of 20 years. You're not necessarily going to skip it, but let's face it, it's not really what you dream about.

In August, in Spain, the figs are those of your most indecent fantasies. Voluptuous and drippingly sweet. The parting of the dense purple interior, pure eros. Enough to make a single girl melt a little.

On my daily walk through the market, the figs are lined up in the stalls like dancing girls waiting to be picked: the lithe dark ones within reach of every wallet and the plumper green at twice the price. I buy a selection every morning, enough for the day. Figs, like women, don't wait well. Nor, God forbid, should they ever be exposed to the cold.

If, by dinner time, there are still a few available, I lie them in quarters on a bed of baby arugula, pair each with a piece of queso de cabra (a Spanish goat cheese, more firm and to the point than a French chevre), marry the whole with some thick balsamic vinegar and finish with leisurely streams of rosemary honey. Then I swoon a little, trying not to spill my rioja as I go.