It’s Like I Never Left: Galacian Octopus Butter Bean Salad

The Baja Ha Ha is complete. We are in Cabo San Lucas. I mean, seariously we made it. I’m not sure whether or not to feel accomplished, exhausted, or surprised. A black hole of emotion has been making its way up my digestive track; and quite frankly, I cannot even begin to describe what those emotions even are. I’m beginning to realize, I may be something of an emotional human being. However, I’d prefer to believe that all humans are emotional people, we just differ in the way we express said emotion. This seems more logical to me. Either way, I am learning that I feel emotion constantly. I guess I always knew that, but I have always been so wrapped up in my life I never stopped and looked inward. Now I have all the time in the world to look inward. Honestly, taking that good look in the mirror is neither always easy nor any fun. In looking in the mirror I have learnt, I’m a strange person (seriously, the Doors basically wrote a song about me) who feels emotion. This post does seem to be trailing off into nonsensical rambling.

Moving slightly back on topic…

Here I am in Cabo and the predominant emotion is I’m feeling is homesick. I miss sleeping in my own bed. I miss having space. I miss cooking in a real kitchen. I miss not having to turn on a diesel engine to cool down the refrigerator/freezer system. I seriously miss that! I miss my lover. I miss living in relatively close proximity to a grocery store. Before arriving in Cabo, I missed Costco something fierce. These are words I never thought I’d say. What was once the bane of my existence is now a heavenly access to familiar goods and bulk provisions. Guess what? There is a Costco in Cabo.

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I am very serious on this matter. I have known about this godsend since San Diego. With a crew of five people onboard, I have been looking forward to re-stocking the boat for sometime. These guys have no idea how stressful it is to keep them all fat and happy. I mean, they plow through huge quantities of certain goods. Especially, snack foods! In all fairness though, I did my fair share of plowing through provisions as well. I mean, I basically killed our inventory of sardines singlehandedly. Did I mention I have discovered sardines? Those suckers quickly came my new favorite. Jesus, I sound like a salty sailor.

Damnit, I’m off topic again…

At the end of our rally down the Baja coast, we were beginning to run low on certain goods. By the time we got to Cabo, we were completely out of crackers, eggs, bread, good American beer (which will likely remain forever gone), fresh produce, black beans, etc. We also burned through an entire tank of propane in a single month, but what can I say about that except, “No shit Sherlock. Clearly, I’ve been doing a bit of cooking.” Anyways, I was out of many of my favorite ingredients. It was stressful. Anytime there was a meal, four hungry little faces would look to me as though I was the only way they could receive a balanced meal. It is my responsibility. However, I also expected the crew to show some semblance of self-restraint. I have a newfound respect for my mother. That is for sure.imgres-1

Clearly, I had to re-provision. Costco here I come. I take the dingy to the dingy dock, walk to the bus, take the bus about twenty minutes along what appears to be main road in Cabo and here I am. I walk in and it is just like home. Holy shit! It hits me like a ton of bricks. I’m so happy to be here! And they have a bunch of the same inventory as the one back home. My dad began cutting across the store. “Let’s go this way,” I told him pushing the cart in the opposite direction. “We always go this way.” The familiarity is uncanny. I want to cling to it like saran wrap. Walking down the familiar aisle, I begin the insane task of re-stocking the boat. I quickly realize that I will have to take multiple trips to get everything I need. I walk over to the meat and fish section and the heavens part. I feel as though I can hear angels singing in the rafters. Pulpo. Beautiful pinkish purple octopus tentacles. Already cleaned and tenderized. Hallelujah!

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At the last restaurant I used to work at, I would order the same dish every single day. It’s the one thing I have been able to eat on a consistent basis. Usually, I like to vary my meals dramatically. But octopus is by far my favorite food. At the restaurant, chef would sear perfectly little cut tentacles, after what I can only assume was sous vide. He’d serve the octopus with tender wilted chicories (bitter greens), an intense black olive puree and confited meyer lemon peels. It was heavenly as well. In chasing familiarity, I cooked up my boat friendly version of his dish. Although, I couldn’t find any chicories or meyer lemons. Oh well, I am in Mexico.

Galacian Octopus Butter Bean Salad

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1 lbs octopus tentacles, cleaned and tenderized*

2 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, diced

6 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 can tomatoes

2 bay leaf

6 cups water

1 tbsp salt

1 can butter beans

Tapenade:

1 cup kalamata olive

1 lemon, juice and zest

6 anchovy fillets

1 tsp capers

3 tbsp good olive oil

Add all ingredients to food processor. Either puree until smooth or pulse the blade a little bit for a rough chopped mixture. For the octopus salad, I prefer the rough chop.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions. Reduce heat to low. Cooked covered for 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes uncovered. Add water, salt and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to boil. Reduce heat to super low. We want to gently, slowly poach the octopus. Otherwise you’ll receive a big old mouthful of awful rubbery tentacles. No bueno. Cook octopus for 15-17 minutes. While the octopus is cooking, heat up the grill.

When it comes out of the pot, it will have a slightly slimy texture on the exterior of the octopus. Searing the tentacles after poaching will remove some of the unpleasantness. Once the octopus is done cooking, remove the tentacles into a clean bowl for transport. Filter the rest of the ingredients through a fine sieve. Add the butter beans. On the grill, sear the tentacles on high heat on each side for one full minute, maybe a little longer. Chop each tentacle into centimeter long pieces. Throw back into transport bowl. Add in the drained simmering mixture. Add the tapenade. Stir until well combined. Serve with tortilla chips. Bon appétit!

*If you are lucky enough to have a fresh octopus in your hands, the best way to tenderize it would be to whack it with a kitchen mallet for about 10 minutes until it foams up. You can also beat it against a rock or the side of the boat for twice as long if you don’t have a heavy mallet available. Another good way is by freezing it for 6-8 days before cooking it. If you get a whole octopus (mantle/sac on) that is not cleaned, you first need to empty the sac of the octopus’ innards and ink sac. Turn the sac inside out, remove them with your hands and don’t get all dainty on me; you need to do this! Of course, if you buy the octopus from your fishmonger or if it’s frozen, the innards and ink sac won’t still be inside the octopus’ sac so you can skip this step. Only fresh octopuses will have their innards intact. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the head off. You need to cut at the point right below the octopus’ eyes so that you’re left with its tentacles and head with sac. You will notice that at the point where all the tentacles meet, right in the middle, there is a hole. Inside that hole is the beak, which is the mouth of the octopus. You need to remove the beak. Push it with your thumb until it comes out the other way, through that little hole between the tentacles on the bottom side of the octopus. In case you can’t get it out, remove it by cutting a circle around it with a sharp knife. That’s the easiest way. Now, take the head, and cut it above the eyes, so that you’re left only with the sac. That is edible. You don’t need to remove the skin, I’d rinse and scrub it though in salt water, then rinse it off in clean fresh water.

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