Jim went to Italy to discover new menu ideas "Words and pictures can't describe it," he says. Come visit us soon to see how this inspiration materializes on our plates.
Among many other things, he had a deliciously tender octopus stewed with white wine and tomatoes. It's fabulous any time of year. Make it now or wait for sun-ripe Jersey tomatoes.
Octopus requires long, slow simmering. To shorten it, use baby octopus (available at many Asian or Spanish markets).
1 lb baby octopus, cleaned, head removed (keep the heads)
6 tablespoons olive oil
Five cloves finely chopped garlic
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or peeled, chopped ripe Jersey tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar (depends on the tomato's acidity)
5 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
One teaspoon chile pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers (optional)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the octopus, return to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes. Discard the water. Pat the octopus and squeeze it dry with a paper towel.
Cut the octopus into pieces. Saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute until fragrant (another minute or so).
Pour the white wine into the pot and bring to a boil. Let it cook down for 3-4 minutes while stirring. Add the tomatoes and chile flakes, stir well, and return to a simmer.
Add a good pinch of salt and the brown sugar. Mix well, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes add the capers, half the dill, and half the parsley. Check the octopus. The small ones may be tender in just 30 minutes. A full-size octopus will need another 20-45 minutes. (How to check for doneness? Either insert a knife and remove without effort or taste. It's done when it doesn't taste chewy).
Seven or ten minutes before the octopus is done, uncover the pot and turn the heat up a notch to concentrate the sauce. If the octopus tastes great, remove it at this point and cook sauce alone.
Just before serving, add the remaining dill and parsley and black pepper. Savor hot or at room temperature with pasta or bread.