I’ve posted a number of recipes that use my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans. I think his beans are great and I haven’t had better. But I’ve secretly always thought that the best thing he carries might actually be a vinegar. Specifically, banana vinegar. It’s made from fermented bananas on a plantation in Mexico, and costs a lot, but it smells like heaven and tastes pretty good too. I can’t bring myself to cook with it; I can’t even bring myself to make a vinaigrette with it: instead, I just pour glugs of it over things so I can get that aroma. This summer I’ve been making a number of warm salads that use it to impart a tang with just the right amount of fruity sweetness. Here is a recent version that came out quite well. It features “baby” octopus along with another great Rancho Gordo product, their incredibly fresh garbanzo beans. If you don’t have octopus at hand or it’s not to your taste, you can just as easily substitute shrimp; you could even make it vegetarian and go with potatoes instead.
- 2 cups cooked Rancho Gordo garbanzo beans, drained
- 1.5 lbs “baby” octopus
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 1/2 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
- 2 tblspn mint leaves, chopped
- 1 lime
- Olive oil
- Banana vinegar or other full-flavoured fruity vinegar of choice
- Cook up a packet of Rancho Gordo garbanzos: rinse, cover with a few inches of water, bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes or so and then reduce to a simmer and cover till done (it shouldn’t take more than two hours). Drain two cups for this salad and save the rest for another use.
- While the garbanzos are cooking wash the octopus and toss with some salt, pepper and the juice of the lime. Set aside for an hour or so.
- Place the chopped onions and cucumber and half the mint in the dish you’ll serve the salad in and mix with a large slug or two of good olive oil, about two tblspns of the vinegar and some salt and pepper. Set aside for an hour or so to let the onion, cucumber and mint come together.
- Heat some olive oil in a large pan that can hold all the octopus and when it’s hot transfer the octopus to it with tongs, shaking off the marinade.
- Saute the octopus over high heat adding some more salt and pepper. Let any water that emerges from the octopus evaporate completely and let it develop a bit of a char. Pour the contents of the pan over the onions and cucumber and mix in.
- Add the drained garbanzo beans and mix in.
- Taste, correct for salt and add the rest of the mint and more of the vinegar till you have it where you want it.
- Let it sit together for 10 minutes or so to let all the flavours come together and to let the octopus cool down.
- If you can’t bring yourself to pay vast amounts of money for the banana vinegar you should know that Rancho Gordo’s pineapple vinegar is also pretty great at half the price. And no, I have no financial relationship with Steve (though god knows he owes me for so much).
- I really like this with octopus but, as I said above, shrimp or, even better, squid would probably work very well too.
- In case you’re wondering, I put “baby” in quotes because it’s my understanding that these are not actually baby octopi but a species of tiny octopus. If I’m wrong please let me know. Large Asian groceries will carry them in their seafood section. They should smell very fresh; if not, don’t buy them.
- No, I don’t know why I call them chickpeas in the name of the recipe and garbanzo beans in the recipe itself.