Octopus belong to the Mollusca family, which include snails, clams, and chitons. Their closest relatives are cuttlefish and squid. The octopus has eight arms or tentacles, a round or pouch-like body and two large, very distinct eyes. Unlike other sea creatures in its class, the octopus can see objects.
Octopus can vary in size, ranging from a 2-inch long baby octopus to a full 18 feet. Octopi are sold frozen or thawed and already cleaned. Unlike other types of seafood, octopus calls for long cooking to tenderize its firm, mild-flavored flesh.
At the market, shop for octopus as you would for fish. They should smell fresh, not fishy, and appear moist and shiny. If buying them whole, the eyes should be bright, not cloudy.
When preparing octopus, we found that the best and most efficient way to tenderize it is simmering it with an everyday wine cork. This way, the octopus becomes tender, yet still retain the essential leathery feel associated with eating it in Mediterranean countries.