Octopus and polenta

Really, you eat octopus?

Yes, it’s yummy! They sell it frozen at our regular grocery store, but every time I ask for it, the people behind the counter act startled, like they can’t imagine why anyone would buy octopus. But the kids like it, it’s not expensive, and a little goes a long way.

[Added later: I actually have trouble eating octopus now, as I become more aware of how smart they are. On the other hand, I eat pork, and pigs are pretty smart too. YMMV.]

How to make braised octopus with polenta:

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat, and then saute a chopped onion in the oil until it is soft. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of coriander, a cup of frozen tomato sauce from last summer (or a tablespoon of canned tomato paste and a cup of water), and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Chop the octopus into bite-size pieces and add that, with a cup of water and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the polenta. Put four cups of water in a large saucepan and bring the water to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, slowly pour in 1 1/4 cups of polenta (coarse-ground cornmeal), stirring constantly. Let the polenta cook for about two minutes over medium-low heat, and then it is done. If you want more solid, sliceable polenta, spread it thin on a cookie sheet to cool.

Go back to the octopus sauce and add a bunch of spinach or other greens, a handful at a time, until it is wilted. Simmer uncovered for five minutes while you finish the polenta. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Vegetarian or vegan?

Neither, but make it with chickpeas and it will be.

Can I keep this for later?

Yes, like most stews this one will taste better the next day, when the polenta will be more solid and the flavors of the stew will blend better. It won’t freeze well though.

Published by Karen Carr

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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