Insalata del Baccalà For some, the timing of today’s post may seem rather odd. A salted cod salad is very often served in Italian households as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve — but not in our house. We Bartolini prepared this salad virtually any time throughout the year except during the holidays. On Christmas Eve, we served our salted cod stewed in tomato sauce, baccalà in umido. Frankly, I prefer it this way, with a stew served in Winter and a salad served in the warmer months.
This is the third recipe I’ve shared that features salted cod. The first, Baccalà alla Marchigiana, is the stew that we served on Christmas Eve. In the second post, the cod was barbecued, although the same preparation could be used to bake the fish. Today’s recipe is a salad and a snap to make, once you’ve re-hydrated and rinsed the cod.
Briefly, in the days long before refrigeration, cod was dried and salted as a means of preservation. To make it suitable for cooking, the cod must be soaked in cold water for at least one day and no more than three. During that time, the water should be changed three times daily. The longer the soak, the less salty the taste. It is up to you to decide what level of salinity is acceptable.
With the cod re-hydrated, the dish, like most green salads, is really quite simple to prepare. Though the ingredients may have varied from one salad to the next, we always dressed our salad with a bit of red wine vinegar and olive oil. You, like many, may prefer to use lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Even so, with absolutely no cooking involved, you can easily see how this salad would make a perfect meal during Summer’s dog days.
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Salted Cod Salad Recipe
- 1lb (455 g) of baccalà (See Variations)
- pickled bell peppers, chopped (See Notes)
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- red onion chopped
- nonpareil capers, rinsed
- Kalamata olives, halved
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- extra virgin olive oil
- red wine vinegar — lemon juice may be substituted
- salt & pepper, to taste
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- To ready the baccalà: Place the fish in an oblong glass dish or pan. Add enough water to cover, dump the water, and repeat a few times. Add enough water to cover and set aside. Change the water 3 times daily for at least 1 day and no more than 3. When ready, the cod will be considerably thicker than when your started and will taste far less salty. (See Notes)
- Remove any bones and skin before proceeding,
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
- Meanwhile, cut the re-hydrated baccalà into chunks from 3 to 4 inches apiece.
- When the water is boiling hard, add the baccalà and, when the water returns to the boil, reduce the heat to a soft simmer.
- Simmer until the baccalà can be easily flaked, usually about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon or small strainer, remove the baccalà from the water and set aside.
- Once cool, carefully flake baccalà and place in another bowl.
- To that bowl, add the peppers, celery, onion, capers, olives, and parsley. Gently toss the ingredients until combined.
- Add enough of the olive oil to lightly coat the salad, followed by the vinegar/lemon juice to taste. Season with pepper but be sure to taste before adding any salt.
- If not to be served immediately, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to do so.
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This recipe used raw salted cod, baccalà, to make the salad. The salad could also be made using left-over baked, broiled, or grilled baccalà, as well. When using left-over cod, there’s no need to boil or cut it up into chunks. Skip those steps and start flaking the pieces.
You can vary the salad ingredients to suit your own tastes. Carrots, shallots, garlic, etc., can be added or used to substitute for any of the ingredients listed.
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You’ll note that I used bell peppers twice in this recipe. The first were miniatures, “Tulip Bells”, that I pickled last August. They added color and a vinegar element. The yellow bell was added for both color and crunch. Neither pepper brings any heat to the salad. If you like, you can add cherry bomb peppers, jalapeños, or Serranos, raw or pickled, to kick up the heat.
One sure way to know whether the baccalà is ready to be cooked is to taste a very small piece of it, once it seems fully hydrated. If it is still too salty, keep soaking the fish until it reaches the level of salinity that you prefer, bearing in mind that it will be boiled once it passes your inspection.
Do not add any salt to the dish until the very end.
This salad will keep for 2 days if refrigerated, though we’ve rarely had left-overs.
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It’s déjà vu all over again …
Today’s post featured a recipe tailor-made for Summer’s hottest days, when we’re all loathe to turn on the stove. The same can be said for today’s blast from the past. Two years ago I shared a recipe for a couscous salad that requires not one bit of cooking. Just put the ingredients in a bowl, give them a toss, and set your salad in the fridge while you sip
Long Island iced tea on the patio. A few hours later you’ll have a tasty salad for lunch or dinner without ever touching a pot or pan. You can see how it’s prepared by clicking HERE.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
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