Grilled Octopus (Oktapodi) and Greek Island Memories

Octopus drying in the sun in Naxos Greece
Octopus drying in the sun in Naxos Greece

What better way to kick off summer than with some delectable grilled seafood. And what better way to christen our new side courtyard on a warm SoCal July evening than grilled seafood. In a word – heaven.

Plus it gave me an excuse to sift through our Greece photos. Double the fun.

The harbor of Paros, Greece
The boats of Paros, Greece

Octopus, or oktapodi (oct-a-poe-dee) in Greek, was one of my favorite dishes in Greece. We had the best on the island of Paros.

Octopus drying in Naxos Greece
Octopus drying in Naxos Greece

But but not all oktapodi is prepared delectably. The key I learned is in tenderizing the meat. Which can be done the old-fashioned way by beating it on a rock and hanging it the sun for hours to break down the cartilage. Or by boiling it briefly before grilling it.

We purchased a whole octopus from Whole Foods already cleaned and simply boiled it before then grilling it. Boiling time varies based on the size of the octopus, but it could be as much as an hour to an hour and a half for a one pound octopus. Boil just until tender, then let cool before grilling.

Hmmmm grilled octopus

Crucial to the flavor is the use of a hot coal fire. If you have the choice always choose charcoal over gas. I am told by my talented husband that charcoal is a key contributor to the flavor. The key is to make sure the coals are extra hot and to get the octopus close to the hot coals.

What you absolutely can’t leave out is fresh squeezed lemon to finish it off.

Just writing this post I can taste the crisp yet tender and sweet yet savory grilled oktapodi. Yamas!

Grilling octopus at home over a chargoal grill
Grilling octopus at home over a charcoal grill

If you are feeling brave at your local fish market or Whole Foods seafood counter, you should try preparing it. It will be almost as good as it tastes in the Mediterranean. Almost.

P.S. – One of my favorite Oktapodi finds is a cute animated short. Nothing like a little oktapodi love to brighten your day. Watch it here:

Oktapodi, animated short