Via Italia: Polpo e Patate

“Polpo e patate” is simply, octopus and potatoes.  Doesn’t sound particularly appetizing?  It didn’t to me either, and I happen to be a person who loves octopus. 

Last summer while vacationing in the Genovese region of Italy, I found “Polpo e patate” on most restaurant menus.  Being that this part of Italy borders the Mediterranean, seafood dishes are commonplace and a huge part of the regional cuisine.  I grew up in a family where “polpo” was made on holidays, so the concept of eating octopus was not new or unusual to me.  However, the pairing of octopus and potatoes just didn’t sound particularly appealing to me, but as a big believer of “when in Rome”, I decided I had to give it a try.

I was extremely surprised to find that this was really a delicious dish.  The monochromatic white of the main ingredients were brightened by halved cherry tomatoes and parsley, and were always garnished with a lemon wedge (photo above).  When dressed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, this dish was transformed into a simple but satisfying lunch or light dinner. 

Upon my return home, I was eager to recreate the “polpo e patate” from my travels, but quickly realized that fresh octopus is not readily available to most people.  When I asked about it at the seafood counter of my local supermarket, I was shown a small container of calamari tentacles, which were a mangled mess of skinny legs not even approximating the thick, meaty pieces of octopus I ate in Italy.   But that got me thinking that calamari would be a great substitute for octopus in this dish, as it is very easy to find both fresh and frozen (I’ve had very good luck with frozen, pre-cut rings of calamari I found at Trader Joe’s).   

If you like calamari, try this dish as a departure from the usual fried version. It has all the flavor of the Italian “Polpo e patate” with nary a tentacle to be tasted. 

Warm Calamari Salad with Potatoes

Serves 4

1 lb calamari rings (fresh or thawed if frozen)

1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Set a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.

Add the potatoes and cook until barely tender (about 7-10 minutes).

Add the calamari rings and cook an additional 2-3 minutes, until they are bright white and tender.  Do not over cook or the calamari will become tough!

Drain in a colander, and place in a large bowl.  Toss with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Garnish with parsley and serve hot or at room temperature.

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