“We would go octopus fishing when I was a kid,” says chef Ash Heeger, who grew up in Transkei, a rural area in eastern South Africa. When making octopus for a crowd, she tosses grilled pieces with greens, loads of fennel fronds, and pickled lemons whose rinds are tender enough to eat and add citrusy punch.
For the pickled lemons and dressing
- 2⁄3 cup white wine vinegar
- 1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
- 3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. grapeseed oil
- 3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. whole-grain mustard
- 1 tsp. honey
For the salad
- 1⁄4 cup kosher salt
- 2 lb. octopus (about 4 large tentacles), cleaned
- 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 14 cups mixed baby salad greens such as spinach and arugula (7 oz.)
- 1 1⁄2 cups fennel fronds, chopped (from 2 bulbs)
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, large ones halved
- 3⁄4 cup thinly sliced spring onion
- 1⁄2 tsp. flaky sea salt
- Make the pickled lemons: In a small saucepan over high heat, add the vinegar, sugar, 2⁄3 cup water, and salt; bring to a boil. Stir in the lemon slices and let rest at room temperature for 1 day.
- Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon pickling liquid.
- Begin the salad: In a large pot, stir 10 cups water with the kosher salt. Add the octopus and oil. Cook at a low simmer until tender, about 2 1⁄2 hours; strain.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high. Add the octopus and cook, turning, until charred but still tender, about 5 minutes per side.
- Remove and let cool 2 minutes, then slice into rounds. Cut the pickled lemon slices into quarters.
- In a serving bowl, toss the greens, fennel fronds, tomatoes, onion, lemon pieces, and octopus with the dressing. Season with flaky sea salt and serve.