My best friend and I are turning 30 on the same day next year, and to celebrate, we’re planning a culinary road trip through northern Spain and Portugal, ending in Madrid. Last weekend, Sean was out of town and the weather wasn’t particularly great, so Penny and I spent a lot of time on the couch napping and watching episodes of the PBS series “Spain…on the Road Again,” which follows Mark Bittman, Mario Batali, Claudia Bassols and Gwenyth Paltrow on a 2008 road trip through Spain.
The only downside to my dreamy weekend is now all I can think about is España.
Sueños de jamon, vino tinto, tortilla Espanola, pan con tomate, pescados y verduras a la plancha. Sueños de bocadillos, cafe con leche y almuerzos y siestas largos.
I am really looking forward to exploring the parts of this beautiful country I’ve never seen, where some of the most exciting food in the world is being created.
So when I went to pick up a few groceries on Sunday, I couldn’t resist an expensive little can of oil-packed octopus from Galicia, a region in Spain that’s famous for seafood. While I was at it, I also bought some sardines, olives and anchovies. Clearly the hours spent watching Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali slurp down pulpos, berbecheros, aceitunas y anchoas has had a slight effect on my grocery shopping.
Spanish canned food is a far cry from the water-logged tuna and clams we’re used to here in the states. Canned products made there (especially the seafood) are uniformly high quality, minimally processed, and they taste delicious even straight out of the can.
The pulpo is the only part of this pasta dish that’s actually Spanish, but the simple prep and flavors felt very reminiscent of the style of cooking I like so much there: unpretentious, savory, brightly acidic and finished with a glossy drizzle of good olive oil.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus another 1/4 teaspoon for garnish
4 ounces canned octopus (I like Matiz Gallego), cut into bite-size chunks
Salt and pepper, to taste
125 grams (4 1/3 ounces) dried linguine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup torn parsley leaves
A few chives, torn, for garnish
Method: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil, red pepper, garlic and lemon zest. Swirl it around a few times before adding the octopus and about 1 teaspoon of the oil from the can. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes to heat the octopus through. Turn off the heat if the pasta isn’t quite finished yet.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in heavily salted water until it’s just al dente. Heat the skillet over medium low, and toss in the pasta along with a few tablespoons of the starchy cooking liquid. Add the lemon juice, parsley and chives, and cook for another 30 seconds so the flavors meld. Heap the pasta into a bowl, sprinkle with chives and the reserved lemon zest, and drizzle with a thin stream of olive oil. Serve immediately, with a cold glass of albariño.