We improvise,” says Frank Castronovo, one half of the duo (the other half is Frank Falcinelli) behind cult Brooklyn restaurants Frankies Spuntino and Prime Meats. “We take seasonal ingredients that are local—and that we have in abundance here in America—and we Italianize, with really good olive oil, anchovies, a little bit of parmesan.” In their octopus salad, dandelion greens, which are native to North America, take the place of the classic Italian salad leaf puntarelle
. “It’s a very similar flavor and texture, with a woody, green stem and a little bitterness to it,” says Castronovo. “With the octopus––cooked slow so it's super soft and sweet—it’s a great combination.” The Castelvetrano dressing in the salad is named after the Sicilian town where the Franks own brand of spicy, young olive oil hails from, and where they return every year to witness the picking and pressing of the olives that will go into making it. This exclusive adaptation of one of many Italian-American recipes in their new book, Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual
, written with Peter Meehan, espouses the Franks' lighter approach towards Italian cuisine, relying heavily on a crucial ingredient—the house olive oil—but never, ever deep-fried. Octopus and Dandelion Salad with Lemon, Capers and AnchovyServes 4
- 1 Octopus
- 1/2 lb dandelion leaves
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 2 teaspoons capers, soaked
- 1/2 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 bunch flat-lead parsley leaves, chopped
- Black pepper
- In advance, put the octopus in a pot, cover with olive oil and poach on a low to medium heat for about three hours. Leave to chill. (This can be done a day or two in advance and stored in the refrigerator). Chop into small, fork-friendly segments.
- Separate and wash the greens in cold water, then spin dry. Cut off the extremities: the harshly bitter green tips and the woody white bottom ends. Coarsely chop the remaining greens into manageable lengths.
- Chop the anchovies, capers and garlic into a near paste. (Roughly chop each one, then combine and work over the pile with your knife.) Transfer the paste to a bowl, add the olive oil, lemon juice and white pepper to taste, and whisk together. Taste and add more lemon juice if needed, then stir in the parsley.
- Toss the dandelion with the dressing and divide the salad among serving plates. Offer black pepper at the table.