Lest anyone think me cruel to animals, I'd just like to comment that S. and I went for a lovely long walk on the beach yesterday. He found a little octopus that we thought was dead, until I saw a tentacle move, so I gently scooped him up and put him in a sheltered tidepool. We checked back on him on our return, and although he didn't look one hundred percent healthy, he wasn't being torn limb from limb by voracious seagulls - likely a plus in his book. We stood and watched him for about ten minutes, marveling at his sleek mantle and killer color/pattern-changing skills and watching him work his little 'jet packs'.
Larger octopi have been known to display problem-solving skills, such as opening containers to get fish, or using fish they are fed as bait to catch fish they do want to eat. They even seem to have a sense of humour - one kept in an aquarium with other tanks in its sight would climb out at night, cross the floor, climb up the side of the tank. Then he'd catch and eat his fish, and climb back into his own tank, and assume an "innocent" position in the bottom. I actually think they are rather adorable - something to about the big eyes or the funny legs-as-hands-as-feet. Herein lies the problem - which I was discussing with S. as we strolled the beach yesterday.
(Shameful confession to follow): I.... looooove... bouillabasse. Not just bouillabasse, but cioppino, fish stew, whatever you want to call it. I've had it in all kinds of places, some that tasted fishy, others that had the great spicy, saffron-y, tomato filled, seafood tang. Gobbled every last little member of the squid/mussel/fish family up with relish (and bread). So what to do, I ask you? I mean really, this* makes me hungry ...but I would happily go round and find and scoop these little guys up and gently place them back in tidepools all day.
Do you have any (small, not life-threatening) such dilemmas? Share. Discuss. Please! Or if you like, please savor the Htapothi Krasato.
*OCTOPUS IN RED WINE (Htapothi krasato)
1kg (2.25lb) young octopus
8tbsp olive oil
350g (12oz) small onions or shallots
150ml (0.25pint) red wine
6tbsp red wine vinegar
225g (8oz) canned tomatoes, roughly chopped
2tbsp tomato puree
4 bay leaves
2tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
First clean the octopus. Pull off the tentacles, remove and discard
the intestines and the ink sac, the eyes and the beak. Skin the
octopus and wash and scrub it thoroughly to remove any traces of sand.
Cut it into 4-5cm (1.5-2inch) pieces and put it into a saucepan over
medium heat to release the liquid. Stir the octopus until this liquid
Pour on the oil and stir the octopus to seal it on all sides. Add the
whole onions and cook them, stirring once or twice, until they colour
Add the wine, the vinegar, tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaves, oregano
and several grindings of pepper. Stir well, cover the pan and simmer
very gently for 1-1.25 hrs, checking from time to time that the sauce
has not dried out. If it does - and this would only happen if the
heat were too high - add a little more wine or water. The octopus is
cooked when it can be easily pierced with a skewer.
The sauce should be thick, like a runny paste. If any of the liquid
separates, remove the lid from the pan, slightly increase the heat and
stir until some of the liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens.
Discard the bay leaves and stir in the parsley. Taste the sauce and
adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve, if you like, with rice and a salad. A Greek essential is
country bread to mop up the sauce.