grilled octopus; grilled eggplant, mint, pan-warmed tomato

Baby octopus always makes a good-looking plate, but it also makes a delicious dinner, and last night the vegetables were a particularly colorful, and tasty, supporting cast for one of our favorite leads.

  • four Spanish baby octopuses (a total of 18 ounces, previously frozen) from The Lobster Place, from our neighborhood Lobster Place, marinated in the refrigerator for about 3 hours (although even a much shorter period really doesn’t hurt) in a mixture of 1/4 cup olive oil; one teaspoon of dried Italian oregano from the Madonie Mountains in Sicily; the zest and juice of half of an organic Whole Foods lemon; 1/4 teaspoon of crushed peperoncino Calabresi secchia from Buon Italia; 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt; and one finely-chopped medium clove of an immature head of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm chopped thinly, the octopus removed from the mix and brought to room temperature (or the marinating octopus removed from the refrigeratorand brought to room temperature in its liquid), drained a bit and grilled over a high flame on top of a seasoned double-burner cast iron grill pan for 10 or 12 minutes mouth or beak side down first, then placed on 2 of its sides (optionally, with a piece of aluminum foil loosely covering the grill pan throughout, because of their moderate thickness in this case), served with a squeeze of the zested lemon and some olive oil, and garnished with spring shallot blossoms, also from Keith’s Farm

  • two medium Japanese eggplants from Norwich meadows Farm, each cut in half, lengthwise, and brushed with a mixture of olive oil, a little finely-chopped immature Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, chopped fresh oregano from Phillips Farm, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, then grilled, on a second, smaller grill pan, turning once, and arranged on the plates, sprinkled with a little chopped peppermint from Keith’s Farm, and drizzled with a little olive oil

  • more than a dozen golden grape tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the 23rd Street Saturday Market, tossed onto the grill pan just before or after the eggplant had been removed and heated, briefly, just enough to warm them through, after which they were strewn about on top and around their pan mates, accompanied on the side by a small collection of micro red amaranth from Windfall Farms, included mostly for the complexity of the color they would add to the plate [I was a bit rushed near the end of the cooking, normally I would have halved the tomatoes, or at least punctured them before throwing them on the grill, but leaving them whole this time meant that they, or their interior flesh, remained warm for a very long time once they were on the plate]
  • the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Vurria… Grillo DOC Sicilia, from Eataly Vino
  • the music, in memory of Oliver Knussen, whose death was reported earlier in the day, was the album, ‘Knussen’, which includes his Symphonies No. 2 & 3; Trumpets; Ophelia Dances for orchestra, Book 1; Coursing for Chamber Orchestra; and Cantata for oboe & string trio