Thursday, February 27, 2014

Octupus Stifado (Dimitri's On the Water)

It's time to send out a little love for what's probably my favorite new dish since moving to Florida last year. What you see above is a steaming bowl of stifado, a hearty Greek stew made with onions, tomatoes/tomato paste, olive oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and garlic, plus a protein that is often beef, but can also be seafood. Even though Chicago has many Greek restaurants (and even more Greek restauranteurs), I can't recall ever seeing this concoction on a menu up north and wasn't aware of its existence until we dined at Dimitri's on the Water (690 Dodecanese Blvd.) in Tarpon Springs a few months ago. For those of you who are non-Floridians, Tarpon Springs became a magnet for Greek immigrants around the turn of the last century to support a thriving sponge diving industry - since then, most of the sponges have disappeared, however, many Greek restaurants have sprung up in their place. Anyway, Dimitri's version of stifado features what's probably the only fork-tender octopus that I've ever eaten (who knows how long it has to be cooked to get this way?), plus Kalamata olives and feta cheese for an added briny boost. When combined with rosemary chickpeas and braised vegetables, you've got a warm, substantial meal to heat up your cool insides in a climate where you generally don't need that kind of thermal support (suffice it to say that this has been the only time I wished for autumn-like, brisk weather in Tampa)...

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