What with all the outdoor work we've been doing, meals are rather quick and simple affairs. Lunches are mostly sandiwches, and dinners are built around whatever we pick from the garden and maybe some sort of protein and rice or pasta.
Last night, after a sweltering day, I ended up cooking on three burners, which did nothing to help cool the house down, but oh well.
I picked three zucchini (one is mammoth), two pattypan, four over-sized scallions, some basil, and some oregano, and a couple of carrots, and 7 cherry tomatoes. I got a box of linguine out of the pantry, and took a package of baby octopus out of the freezer.
So here's what I did. I cleaned the carrots and cut them into sticks. They and the tomatoes would be our salad. Currently we don't have any lettuce or greens big enough to use in salads – long story.
Anyway, I started heating a big pot of water for the pasta (and because hey, it's just not fun if the humidity level is only at 90%), and then I took the medium sized zucchini, sliced it in half the long way, and then, with a vegetable peeler, made thin ribbons. I planned to add this to the pasta at the end of the cook time. I left the other two zucchini for another meal.
Oh, yeah, and I took a container of pasta sauce out of the freezer, too, put that in a pan, added some olive oil, some roasted garlic cubes (also from the freezer) and some of the basil and oregano I'd picked. Oh, and about a quarter cup of the last of some salsa I had in the fridge, just for kicks. I left that to simmer on a back burner.
I cut the two pattypan squash into chunks, and I sliced the white part of the scallions (two of which were more like small onions at this point) and added that to the pattypan squash chunks.
Oh, and I also took out a cup of frozen fish stock from the freezer.
Let's see…next, I took the lower end of the scallion greens (the upper ends, the tip ends, were kind of banged up from wiffle balls (the scallions reside behind home plate and serve as catcher), so I put those in the compost pail) and sliced them, then removed all the leaves from the oregano stems, cut up the basil leaves, and to them I added 4 cloves of garlic. I dumped all this onto a board and chopped the whole mess together, kind of mixing and chopping as I went.
Then, the baby octopus. I cut their little heads off, set those aside, then cut their legs into two portions of 4 legs each. Those went into a bowl with some ice. Then I sliced off the lower part of the heads, where the beak is, and then sliced the head open (basically the head is like a pouch) I put the front half of the pouch into the bowl of ice, then carefully scraped all the innards off of the other half. The innards were discarded, the other part of the head/body/pouch went onto the ice.
Okay. (Oh, and I'm sorry there are no process pictures – I just was racing to get everything cooked so I could shut off the burners as soon as possible.) So I've got my pasta water going, and my pasta sauce simmering.
Next, I took my big 14" skillet and put that on the stove. Heated it up, drizzled a generous amount of olive oil over the bottom and dumped in the pattypan chunks and the sliced scallion whites. I sprinkled salt over it and sauteed it until everything began to give off liquid and then to caramelize.
By this point, I was cooking the pasta.
I dredged all the little octopus parts in rice flour, and then moved all the lovely golden brown vegetables to the perimeter of the pan. I swirled it to move some of the remaining oil/liquid into the center, and then, over medium high heat, I put the tentacles in (they're thicker and I wanted to cook them first). Within seconds they started to curl up. I flipped them over, and then in another couple of seconds, moved them to the edges with the squash. Then I added in the little flatter pieces from the head/body. They cooked very quickly as well. I poured the fish stock in to cool things down a bit and slow the cooking (don't want to overcook the octopus) and then added in my melange of herbs. I gave the whole thing a good stir, set the heat to medium low, so it was all barely at a simmer, and let it cook a few minutes while I added the ribbons of zucchini to the pasta and cooked that for two minutes.
Next, I strained the pasta and zucchini, tossed that with the sauce, and put it in a bowl.
I tasted a small piece of octopus to see if it was done, and it was (if I do say so) cooked perfectly – it was not tough or chewy – there was that sort of pop you get when you bite into perfectly cooked shrimp or squid. Yay!
I put all that in another bowl, brought everything (including the tomatoes and carrots) to the table, and we ate. Bill and I ate the octopus mixture on top of our pasta; the kids (predictably) kept things separated. Actually, Julia didn't want any. Oh well, more for us.
Alex wasn't sure he liked the octopus cooked THIS way, which is fine. Bill liked it, and I loved it. I could have eaten the rest of what was in the bowl, but I held back.
And that was last night's dinner.