Adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands
The filling of this delicious pie from Cephalonia is unusual. The salty taste of seafood is complemented by the fresh flavor of zucchini, tomatoes, onions and garlic. The pie needs long, slow baking so that the rice can absorb the moisture in the filling and cook. The result is unbelievable. Octopus pies, a typical Lenten dish, are also prepared on Lesbos and other islands of the Aegean, but I love this particular version because of the special fragrance the cinnamon gives it.
This is a large pie, but any leftovers keep well for about 3 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to 3 months, wrapped in aluminum foil and sealed in a zipperlock bag.
I often make it into small individual pies, especially if I use our homemade phyllo. Leftover, charcoal-grilled octopus can also be used in the stuffing, and a bay leaf at the bottom of the pan makes the pies fragrant.
Makes 10 to 12 servings
2 pounds fresh or frozen octopus (1 large or several small) or 1 pound salt cod soaked overnight in several changes of water
1/2 cup dry red or rose wine
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/4 cup if using salt cod
4 cups coarsely chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, coarsely grated
1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and diced or grated (see page 27)
1 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup medium-grain rice, such as Arborio, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 17 1/4-ounce packages (3 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed according to the package instructions OR homemade phyllo
If using fresh octopus, wash it well and place in a large nonreactive pot. (The octopus releases water as it cooks, so there is no need to add any.) Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the octopus changes color and curls up.
If using frozen octopus, place it in the pot directly from the freezer and cook over low heat, turning frequently, until it curls up. Increase the heat to high and cook to evaporate the excess liquid. Add the wine, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the octopus is tender when tested with a fork. Remove from the heat. Remove the octopus from the cooking liquid (set the pot aside) and let stand until cool enough to handle. Finely chop the octopus and set it aside in its liquid.
If using salt cod, drain on paper towels, then remove any bones and skin and cut into thin strips. Sauté in the 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet for about 5 minutes, or until firm. Pour in the wine and let cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230 C)
In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the onions over medium heat until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and pepper or pepper flakes and remove from the heat. In a large bowl, combine the octopus or salt cod with the cooking liquid, the onion mixture, zucchini, tomatoes, parsley, rice, cinnamon and salt.
Barely knead 2 sheets of the puff pastry together, then roll out on a lightly floured surface. Line a 12-x-18-inch baking dish with the pastry, trimming it to a 1-inch overhang. Add the octopus or salt cod mixture, smooth the top with a spatula. Stretch the remaining sheet of puff pastry to cover the filling. Fold the overhanging bottom pastry over the top crust and pinch the edges together to seal, crimping them to make a neat cord around the edge of the pan. Flatten the cord with the tines of a fork to prevent it from sticking up, or it will burn during baking. With a sharp knife, cut two slashes in the top, making a cross.
Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkling the top of the pie with water 8 to 10 times. Bake for 10 minutes more, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 1 hour more, or until golden brown. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes more. Turn off the oven, but leave the pie in the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes, before cutting and serving.
Note: The pie can be cooled completely and refrigerated. Reheat in a preheated 350°F oven for about 20 minutes before serving.