A Cure for SAD & Fun Things to Do with Tentacles:
Octopus Salad

Octopus and Celery Salad

When you’re a busy modern executive, web-based home-delivery services like FreshDirect can help you save those precious minutes it takes to race around a supermarket and snatch a few items off the shelves. When you’re into food, web-based home-delivery services like FreshDirect can be like, well…, like the daily temptation faced by a Frenchman living next door to a brothel.

So, everytime a flyer comes through our door informing us that a $50 purchase means an additional $25 worth for free, we are briefly gallant in our efforts to fight the urge, before capitulating and ordering all manner of products on the spur of the moment. Amongst our knee-jerk purchases just prior to Christmas were four quails, six soft-shell crabs, an immodest hunk of jamon serrano, and three large octopii – none of which were called for by our festive menu.

Consequently, because we had exceeded the capacity of our scant storage space, we were obliged to prioritize our consumption of said victuals based on what could fit in the freezer. I know we have your sympathy when I tell you that this forced us, quite literally, to gorge ourselves on quail and jamon one desperate night. The anguish. Happily, octopus not only freezes well, but freezing actually helps to tenderize it, so in to the ice-chest went our three 8-legged friends.

So recently, when the time came, and after having followed our tried and tested octopus boiling method on one of the ‘puses, we found ourselves reminiscing about a wonderful, crisp octopus salad we ate in the famed town of Alba in Italy’s Piemonte region two summers ago. Surprisingly, perhaps, for a restaurant specializing in Albanese specialties (truffles, mushrooms, game, and hearty red wines), but appropriate for the conditions, the salad was similar, if not identical, to the kind of insalati di polipo typically found in Puglia. Perfect as a first-course for lunch on a scorching summer’s day, the crunchy, yet tender, octopus worked beautifully with crunchy and fibrous celery in a lively dressing of lemon juice and an almost unbelievably bright unfiltered olive oil.

Octopus and Celery Salad

Now, here in New York the conditions of late have not exactly mirrored those of July in Alba, but, reasoning that there was no better cure for seasonal affective disorder than a big plate of crunchy, zesty tentacles and the memory of the sun-heated flagstones under our bare feet, we went right ahead and made this magnificent salad all the same. Indeed, because sunshine is so scarce at this time of year, you should treat yourself to some liquid sunshine – the year’s new olive oils are becoming available – and this is a salad that really benefits from the best extra virgin oil you can afford.

Insalata di Polipo alla Pugliese (Puglian-Style Octopus & Celery Salad)


1 octopus (allowed to cool after being boiled and prepared in the traditional way), grilled on a grill, griddle pan, flat top or skillet and chopped into bite-sized chunks

2 large celery stalks, chopped roughly

1 plum tomato, chopped roughly

1/2 red onion, chopped roughly

3 tbsp flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

1 clove garlic, smashed & chopped finely

3 tbsp your best olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

pinch of salt & black pepper (substituting hot red pepper flakes for the black pepper works nicely)


Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well to ensure oil and lemon juice coat all components. Enjoy with thoughts of summer.

30 thoughts on “A Cure for SAD & Fun Things to Do with Tentacles:
Octopus Salad

  1. What do you mean by: ” the daily temptation faced by a Frenchman living next door to a brothel.” ? 🙂 I feel like you’re pointing the finger at me. haha. I rather you point some of those delicious octopus tentacles at me. My fav’ food! This salad looks incredible. You did a fantastic job as always!

  2. swoon… I live for sh*t like this! I swear. Of all my friends of the sea, i like shellfish +squid+octopus the most. Something about the chewy texture.

    My mom straight up grills it japanese still, but I love it boiled. I love how it shrinks up. This looks so earthy. Like one of those things you order in restaurants with a generous, portion of wine.

    I wish we could get things for free from fresh direct! $25 can buy you a generous hunk of jamon serrano or a golf ball size of jamon iberico. That stuff goes for $100/lb!

  3. I am just a little partial to octopus – Two years ago touring the south of italy it was a habit out of control.
    This looks great as usual.
    Oil bit xxx
    I need to find a way to get some to you or maybe I should wait until you come and then we can go a visit the olive pressing priest all together.

  4. Chicos… your recipes are fantásticas!!!! This pulpo salad makes me want to rush to the market and buy some… I love the crunchy touch of the celery here 😀 He, he… not summer here but we are having 16 to 20 ºC… Aaaahhhhh how I missed the sun this winter!

  5. ZC – nothing personal, of course, mais les francais ont une reputation (dans l’imagination Anglaise) pour avoir un grand appetit sexuel!
    katiek – the $25 free bought us everything else, the original $50 was the jamon serrano!
    rachel – you must be careful what kind of suggestions you throw around. you may very well find us sitting on your doorstep one of these days holding the stubs of our one-way tickets…
    peter/ganthro – researching this recipe we came across several virtually identical Greek preparations, and some interesting variations. we have two more ‘puses in the freezer, let the experiments continue!
    nuria – 16-20C is simply unfair. we’re counting our blessings here because it’s 6-7C rather than below freezing. we’re missing the sun too but I’ll trade rain for snow right now! venga la primavera hasta pronto!!

  6. what is this “busy modern executive” crap? lol…this looks GOOODD…can you make this down the shore por favor? HEY! DID YOU CHANGE MY NAME TO “SOPHIE” ON HERE? love it.

  7. I really have to try Fresh Direct. I get these little offers in the mail all the time for discounts and free products. I have barely scratched the surface of what I can order from them. I guess I worry I won’t be home to receive the order because I’m rarely ever there.

  8. Sophie – i just re-read the first paragraph again and I, by no means, meant to imply that i am an executive of any kind, busy, modern or otherwise. I think my dad bought me an executive satchel when I first started work ten years ago, but that’s about as close as i’ve got to executive-ness in my career…
    Rachel – the great thing about FreshDirect is that you can arrange when they deliver so it’s convenient for you. We always have ours arrive around 8 at night so we can be sure to be in. give it a try!

  9. Man! Yesterday I had lunch at Lola in Seattle, and had a salad just like this, sans cephalopod. I told my coworker, “man, if only this salad had squid or octopus on it.”

    I have a friend who won’t eat octopus because they’re the most intelligent invertebrate. I tried to tell him that pigs are smarter than dogs, but are still tasty, but he couldn’t be convinced. :\

  10. I haven’t had octopus in a LONG time and your salad is making me hungry. And you have my sympathy for indulging on lots of jamon serrano and quail. Like my mother said, I rather be fat than waste food 🙂

  11. Octopus is superb, but I find it really difficult to cook it properly. My efforts have turned out tough, shoe-leather tough.

    I tend to leave octopus cookery to people who know how to do it properly. Such as Italians.

  12. hello fellow brooklynites! Oh the octupus looks wonderful! Now if I could only be daring enough to get one of my own and try it. 🙂 If you ever find your way to SE Asia – let me know. Bourdain recently visited my motherland – the Philippines – the show didn’t quite cover enough but our food is VERY good. 🙂

    Jonathan – You mentioned in my blog about trying to discuss racism and anti-racism in your school. Have you ever heard of the People’s Institute? http://www.pisab.org/ They have this great Undoing Racism workshop and they’re helping the agency I work for (Jewish Board) confront organizational racism. Very dynamic stuff.

  13. I have always been skeptical of those services. I had no idea they offered such great stuff.I like to see the food I’m buying. Need to check it out. That salad would cheer me up anyday. Love grilled octopus.

  14. Reminds me so much of a Spanish tapa that I always order around here. Checked out your recipe underneath the post for pulpo a la gallega, too 🙂

  15. If I lived in the city, I wouldn’t have *any* control over Fresh Direct. I spend about 75% of my earnings on food now–and I have to get off my ass to get it! 😀

    Love your salad. I just had a octopus salad with celery and oven-roasted tomatoes at Saul and am itching to make something like it at home. Thanks for the recipe.

  16. At a recent Portuguese wine tasting event, I managed to procure a rare bottle of Portuguese EVOV after a bit of batting of eyelash and showing of cleavage on my part. It tastes so fresh it’s like biting into olives. I think this is the perfect dish for it. Thanks so much!

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