Another Saturday. We wind our way up the narrow, steep, twisted stairwell whose inner rooms present architecturally interesting old nooks and crannies lined with richly, dark colored walnut walls. Floor upon floor, except for the atrium, which boasts a broad surround of windows, proclaims a continuum of memories creating a magical sort of atmosphere with hung displays of countless frames featuring assorted memorabilia and prints of performances, those past productions at the old Theatre.
More than a Philadelphia Institution, the Walnut Street Theatre holds its place in history as the first theatre in the United States, shortly to celebrate its 207th Anniversary. Its place over the course of ten Saturday’s produces a filled lobby with parents, and grandparents, like me, all dropping off children whose lives for the next hour and a half will be broadened learning not only the introductions to acting and its many facets, but also gaining a peek into the richness of traditional culture among the arts, the Theatre.
A brisk walk from the Walnut, just off the streets of China Town, sets another Philadelphia Institution, nearly a city block long, The Reading Terminal Market. A place that bustles with shoppers and eaters alike, the market brims on hectic overload like pulsing electric energy crammed between the locals, then with the tourists appearing simultaneously fabulously amazed and dazed all at once in this sort of organized pandemonium, circling there and about, noting elevated signs to gather some sense of placement, others subtly bumping into each other quietly apologizing through the tightly woven maze, or not, as purveyors and counter stands busily engage in serving customers after shouting out current designated numbers among the waiting lines, those seeking particulars from the broad range of provisions.
Large metal slicers shake loudly while slicing crusty round loaves of Miche, oval sourdough breads, arranged bunches of long baguettes. Stacks of fresh produce line wooden flats and stands in assorted sections, small pastries, chocolates, sweets, fill glass cases in front of white bakery boxes with long rolls of kitchen string, makeshift plywood boards house all sorts of jellies, jams, butters, maple syrup, honey. Big wooden barrels filled with brines of colored olives snug corners in front with massively broad selections of cheese varieties. Designated stalls separate the bustling domains that in some sections seem to blend together, there is charcuterie too, florists, a General Store, a cookbook stall, a culinary shop, meat butchers, poulterers, and of course, fish mongers.
This past ten weeks has been a special one, though taking me further away from my usual Phoenixville Farmers Market, providing a whole reunited sense of weekly theatre, shopping at Reading Terminal Market, while literally reuniting me to old haunts with many of the very same stalls I more regularly shopped many years ago, even the Cookbook Stall long before Barnes and Noble, or Borders, or Amazon. The Cookbook Stall was where all the chefs bought their cookbooks. My favorite fish monger at the Reading Terminal, hosts a huge white sign across its expanse: EAT FISH LIVE LONG. Yes. That’s it. With no other immediately recognizable name attached, removing any possibility of chaos I ask you, what could be easier to remember?
Strolling along the vastly displayed selections of practically any type of clean, pristine fish at EAT FISH LIVE LONG insures the greatest of difficulty deciding on the weeks selections, well, all except those little extra side ‘must haves’ whereby ‘must have’ or risk suffering mouthwatering cravings for a week before return. My favorite easy choice on the ‘must have,’ Baby Octopus, which I immediately decided would make an excellent Grilled Baby Octopus Salad. It did.
Winding my way up the narrow stairwell on the last class of this session inspired sort of that great feeling one gets after seeing a really great musical. A special time for both grandson, and grandparents, a marvelous production these weeks have been, the Walnut Street Theatre, the Reading Terminal Market, the latter of which you can prepare today’s dish, simply search in the midst of this bustling place of provisions, with its sort of organized pandemonium, find the bold sign that says: EAT FISH LIVE LONG.
- 1 1/4 pound baby octopus
- 1 small red onion, halved cut crescent shape
- juice of one whole lemon, seeds removed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, more or less
- good pinch coarse kosher salt
- good pinch cracked black pepper
- 12 tiny baby red potatoes, quartered, amount based on 3 potatoes per salad, prepare more if desired
- juice of half lemon, seeds removed
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- couple pinches coarse kosher salt
- few grinds cracked black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- handful baby lettuce for each salad
- 3 carrots, peeled, cut into matchstick size pieces, boiled 3-4 minutes then drained and refreshed in cold water
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 1/4 cup snap beans, strings removed
- fresh cut chives for garnish (optional)
- juice of half a lemon, seeds removed
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 small pinches coarse kosher salt, more to taste
- a few grinds cracked black pepper
- For The Octopus: Prepare Baby Octopus one day ahead
- Rinse baby octopus, remove the round bulb in the center which is the head. Clean the head of the eyeball and rinse, or discard head. Push up the center of the octopus and remove the little inner sac which contains the insides, discard. Drop baby octopus into a skillet of boiling water and cook for one and a half minutes, drain and rinse in ice water. Place octopus into a glass bowl, stir in the olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Add in the lemon halves, red onion, stir. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
- Steam potatoes in a vegetable steamer set over a skillet with boiling water reaching just beneath the bottom of the steamer basket. Cook potatoes until tender through, around fifteen to seventeen minutes. Remove potatoes to a bowl, let cool for five minutes then toss with the juice of half a lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh chopped parsley. Set aside until ready to assemble salad.
- Whisk all ingredients together well beating until dressing emulsifies, check seasoning.
- Preheat grill to high heat for ten minutes or longer. Stir blanched snap beans in with the octopus, red onion, and lemon pieces. Spray a grill tray with cooking oil then spread the octopus and snap peas onto the tray placing onto the hot grill cooking for two minutes before stirring ingredients around on tray, grill another one to two minutes then immediately remove the tray from the grill. Toss lettuce with the dressing and assemble onto plate along with the potatoes, carrots, radishes and snap beans. Arrange grilled baby octopus on top, sprinkle salad with fresh cut chives, serve straight away.