Warm Octopus Salad
Ask a true introvert, like Jean-Paul Sartre, what it means to be lonely and he'll tell you, "Hell is other people." For me, it's when you're more alone in a crowded room than in bed with a good book, or at dinner with a close friend. We're neither shy nor socially inept; we merely derive our mental energy from within. This is probably why I tend to saunter off by myself on Friday nights to refuel at my favorite (ironically, crowded) restaurants, like Da Andrea. Their warm octopus salad, my own take reproduced here, is the fall version of that Mediterranean staple: potatoes for insulation, burst tomatoes for savor, olives and capers for salt—a summer fling matured. I've written this recipe for two because, though hell might be other people, even the octopus—solitary demon of the deep—comes out to shake hands.
4 ounces fingerling potatoes, sliced on the bias, 1/2-inch thick
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 ounces slow-cooked, heavily boiled octopus, cut into bite-size pieces^
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful olives, halved
1 tablespoon capers, plus a dribble of brine
In a hot skillet with a glug of olive oil, fry the potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper, for about 5 minutes or until crispy on the outsides and tender on the insides. Add the octopus and warm through, charring slightly if you can (note: high heat), 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the tomatoes, olives, capers (plus juice), and parsley. Arrange decorously on a plate à la salade composée, or as I do, more often than not, eat straight from the pan.
^Fresh octopus is nearly impossible to find, so I just buy one of those prepared octopus salads. If you can get fresh, then more power to you; cook them through, obviously, longer than I recommend above.