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

A karpouzi a day keeps the doctor away!

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to have a chance to visit Greece for 2 weeks with my, at the time boyfriend, now husband. There are so many things that I can tell you about that trip, but today as I was walking through the grocery store deciding what to have for dinner, I strolled by a large display of watermelons, and was instantly transported back to Greece. Watermelon, or Karpouzi (CAR-POO-ZEE) in Greek, is a staple in the Greek diet. While in Piraeus, we stayed with Steve’s Theo (Uncle) Spiro and his family. Every night after dinner, Theo Spiro would eat almost half a large karpouzi.

Karpouzi (watermelon) is a low calorie and nutrient packed treat

What I know now is that not only is this a great dessert choice, it is choc full of valuable vitamins, and antioxidants, such as the free radical neutralizing, lycopene. It is rich in vitamins, C, A and B. It also is a good source of thiamin, potassium and magnesium. Giving it many added benefits when it comes to energy production (thanks to vitamin B6). And according to some studies, reduces the risk of developing various diseases such as heart disease and some cancers, such as colon cancer, reduces the airway spasm that occurs in asthma, and can alleviate some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Watermelon is a nutrient rich food. Because it has such a high water content and only contains 48 calories per cup, it delivers more nutrients per calorie than many other fruits.

It also turns out that eating carrots is not the only way to protect your eyesight. Fruits, like watermelon which is also rich in beta-carotene, are just as important. Eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily. (Source: Archives of Ophthalmology) Curious how much fruit makes up 1 serving? See my previous post here: Getting your 5 a day

It has also been associated with numerous other health benefits in recent studies. According to one study, there may be a link between eating lycopene rich foods, like watermelon, and drinking green tea and a man’s reduced risk of getting prostate cancer. (Source: Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jian L, Lee AH, et al.)

The benefits go on, and on. I guess Theo Spiro, who is also a Doctor, is on to something. So if you happen to wander through the produce section and see some fresh watermelon in stock this season, stock up! Karpouzi for everyone! And for us, a little walk down memory lane of our trip to Greece as we feast on karpouzi for dessert tonight!

Karpouzi at a beachside cafe in Naxos
Karpouzi at a beachside cafe in Naxos
Scenic and breathtaking Oia, Santorini
Scenic and breathtaking Oia, Santorini