This charred octopus salad with tomatoes and mint makes a light summer meal with tender octopus, vibrant tomatoes, refreshing mint, and spicy Aleppo pepper.
We love ordering octopus at the restaurant but find it intimidating to cook at home. I couldn’t pass up on a good deal recently when the fishmonger mislabeled octopus as calamari and I got it for $6 per pound instead of $18. After browsing through my cookbook collection, I made a charred octopus salad with tomatoes and mint inspired by a recipe from the Saffron in the Souk cookbook by John-Gregory Smith. This salad is so delicious with charred tender octopus, sweet heirloom tomatoes, refreshing mint, and gentle heat from the Aleppo peppers.
What Types of Tomatoes to Use for Salad
For this salad, look for a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from yellow, red, to tiger-striped, and purple-skinned. Some of my favorites are Cherokee Purple, Costoluto Genovese, Green Zebra, Brandywine, bumble bee, and grape tomatoes.
How to Tenderize Octopus
With improper cooking technique, octopus will result in a rubbery and chewy texture. I used a couple tricks recommended by chef Jose Pizzaro from his Basque cookbook. Serious Eats also has a nice article on how to handle this tough mollusk. Freeze the octopus for at least 2 days before cooking which breaks down the fiber and makes it more delicate. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight then simmer it in a pot of water for 45-60 minutes until tender. Cooking it too quickly will have the opposite effect. Check for tenderness by pushing a knife into the thickest part of the tentacle. If the knife easily pierces the flesh, the octopus is ready. Sear or grill the tentacles whole, about 3 minutes per side to get a nice char.
This charred octopus salad with tomatoes and mint makes a light and fresh summer meal. After a slow braise on the stove and a quick sear on the grill, the octopus becomes tender with a crisp exterior. The delicate flavor of octopus shines with the burst of flavor from heirloom tomatoes, spicy Aleppo pepper, and refreshing mint. Juices from the tomatoes along with olive oil, lemon juice, Aleppo pepper, and Maldon salt create a simple yet delicious dressing that ties everything together. Grab a cold glass of white wine and you're good to go!
Charred Octopus Salad with Tomatoes and Mint
- 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 celery, chopped
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- a few sprigs of thyme
- 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
- 3 cups water
- 1 lb large octopus tentacles, cleaned
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 lb heirloom tomatoes, sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup mint leaves
- ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper
- Bring a pan of water to a boil with carrot, celery, peppercorns, thymes, and lemon.
- Plunge the octopus tentacles into water. Decrease heat to low and simmer for 45-60 minutes until octopus becomes tender or until a small knife pierces easily through the thickest part of the tentacle.
- Remove octopus from cooking liquid and let it cool. Discard cooking liquid.
- Combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Add octopus and toss to coat.
- Heat a heavy-based grill pan over high heat or preheat the barbeque to high.
- Sear octopus for 2-3 minutes on each side until the tentacles have a few char lines and become crispy.
- Remove tentacles from heat and transfer to cutting board. Use a sharp knife to slice tentacles into ¼ inch thick.
- Transfer tomatoes to a serving platter. Top with octopus. Garnish with mint leaves and Aleppo pepper. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.