Octopus the gem food of Puglia

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The key to tender Octopus (vs. chewy and tough) is the capture and storage of it. On the coast of Puglia it’s common to see men wacking their specimens on the rocks to tenderize the meat which is the most reliable method. We can’t expect that at the fish market though so the next best thing is to freeze for at least 24 hours to break down the fibers. It’s the only fish I recommend freezing! My husband, spearfishing for fun brings home the freshest of seafood so anything less than fresh is an acceptable in our home.

Octopus must be cleaned, so you may want to ask your fish monger to do it if you’re not into digging around a slimy sea creature. It’s not hard. Just hold the head under running water remove and discard the ink sac, stomach, and eyes. Then use a sharp knife to cut out the beak, which is at the bottom of the head

There are many recipes for boiling and braising octopus, but I usually put it in a pot and cover it with water and a cup of white wine. I add some peppercorns, lemon, and three or 4 cloves of garlic, and then let the mixture slowly simmer. I may throw in a wine cork bit I’m not convinced it does anything but it is an italian wives tale that is suppossed to reultbin tender meat. You can tell when the octopus is tender by piercing it with a sharp knife: if tender, the knife should go in very easily. Cooking times vary depending on the size of the octopus and whether if was frozen, but it usually needs 45 to 90 minutes to become sufficiently tender. The addition of the wine cork is a bit controversial—advocates, like Mario Batali, claim it contains and enzyme that helps tenderize the octopus while it cooks. Since its so easy to add, I often toss it in. Harold McGee offers some contrary evidence.

I love eating it straight out of the pot even a room temperature with a drizzle of evoo, sea salt and a grind of pepper.

It’s also delicious thrown on a grill for 2 minutes to get a smokey, grilled flavor with yummy charred bits to boot. Wood fire is preferred but gas grill works as well.

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janescucinaitaliana

Jane Biscarini From Rancho Santa Fe, CA to Rome, Italy to Chattanooga, TN I grew up in the San Diego area, down the street from the now famous Chinos Vegetable Market. We purchased our organic (wasn’t even a term then) veggies there. Their sweet white corn was a summer staple on our table. 20 years later Wolfgang Puck discovered them for his restaurants in Los Angeles and made them famous. Cooking fresh and delicious meals was always a part of my family life. My sisters and I all cooked. Then in my 20’s I discovered Italy- and my future Italian husband (from Milan). We originally moved to Italy to expose the kids (now Marco 22 and Isabella16 years old) to the Italian culture and language. Well, 10 years into it, we lived in Como, Florence ,Rome and my new favorite Puglia (the next Tuscany). At different intervals we have lived a total of a year with my Italian sister and mother in law, learning and integrating their cooking secrets from Lombardia, Liguria, and Piemonte. Our last year was spent in Puglia – Manfredonia to be exact- (not Macedonia although we kept slipping the tongue and saying that for months) a charming seaside town that is a new favorite and a foodie indulgence! I Completed a professional chef course for Italian cuisine in Terni (Umbria region) 2012. I taught Italian cooking classes for 3 years in Rome- to other foreigners, American embassy staff and secret service. For our work in Rome I prepared at least 2 lunches/dinners a week for Italians and this is what they say in their words: I have tasted many times the dishes prepared by Jane and I can say only this thing: “I’didn’t know that an American lady – I’m an Italian family – part time cook - could make so many tipbits of Italian, American, Mexican cooking, and the dishes are so good that I had to change my opinion about the quality of American food, and about the way used to combine various ingredients to obtain excellent results. Jane deserves a lot of congratulations for her work , for her commitment and for her passion!” Unforgettable her pumpkin soup and her New York cheese-cake, but also “amatriciana pasta” and “lasagna”! I never thought that an American pretty lady could teach me so much! Patrizia- Roma Hi, my name is Laura, I am italian and I live in Rome where I had known Jane since 3 years ago , so I have had the opportunity to go to her nice house many times and to appreciate her as hostess and good cook. Jane is able to cook perfectly every type of food, American, Mexican, Oriental but, above all, she is able to cook… Italian food better than an Italian!!!! It’s not easy to pass the exam of the “verdict” of Italians about different kinds of pasta, pizza, melanzane alla parmigiana, gnocchi and so on, but she is a great cook and she knows how to propose them in the best way as well. And in several occasions it happened that we – her Italian friends – asked her to give us the correct recipes! So I think you are lucky to have Jane as your cooking teacher, I am sure she ‘ll become one of your good friends too, and you’ll enjoy her cooking lessons! Laura Garassini Ho avuto modo di gustare la cucina di Jane, debbo dire che oltre ad essere meravigliosamente presentata i gusti non sono buoni, ma FANTASTICI!! Silvano Ferraro Translation: I had the chance to taste Jane’s cooking. I must say that on top of serving beautifully prepared dishes, their tastes are not good but fantastic! Per mia fortuna ho mangiato diverse volte cibo cucinato da Jane! E’ una esperienza sempre interessante per il palato e per la propria cultura gastronomica: Jane riesce, con poco e con grazia, a creare sapori perfetti che conducono in un viaggio sensoriale dalla tradizione italiana all’esperienza esotica… dove la certezza del buono si accompagna alla scoperta di nuovi gusti! Rosalba Translation: In my good fortune I have eaten Jane’s cooking various times. It is always an experience interesting for the palate and for the true cultural gastronomy. Jane can, with little and with grace, create the perfect flavors that conduct a voyage of the senses from the traditional Italian to the exotic experience…where the certainty of goodness is accompanied by the discovery of new flavors! Cara jane, ormai cucini così bene che meriteresti la cittadinanza italiana onoraria!!! Baci Gianluca Ievolella Translation: Now you cook so well that you deserve the honorary Italian citizenship!

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