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Baccala Salt Cod Salad

Baccala Salt Cod Salad: A Mediterranean Classic with a Twist

Baccala Salt Cod Salad, or salt cod, is a culinary staple steeped in Mediterranean tradition. This preserved fish boasts a unique, salty flavor and a pleasantly firm texture. While often served in rich stews or whipped into creamy spreads, it also shines beautifully in the vibrant and refreshing form of a salad. Here, we explore the delicious world of Baccala Salad and ways to give it your own unique touch.

The Origins of Baccala

Centuries ago, cod became a valuable commodity as a source of preserved protein. Salting and drying allowed for long-term preservation, especially important for sailors and people living in regions where fresh fish was scarce. Baccala found its way into the hearts (and kitchens) of people across the Mediterranean, particularly around Italy and Portugal.

The Essential Ingredients of Baccala Salad

While recipes vary, a classic Baccala Salad typically features a few key components:

  • Baccala: Soaked to remove excess salt, the cod is then poached or steamed until tender and flaked.
  • Fresh Vegetables: Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and bell peppers offer crispness and vibrant color.
  • Olives: Briny Kalamata olives or other varieties add a salty, Mediterranean touch.
  • Herbs: Parsley or basil bring a fresh, herbaceous element.
  • Dressing: A simple vinaigrette made with olive oil, lemon juice, and perhaps a touch of Dijon mustard ties everything together.

Customization is Key

The beauty of Baccala Salad lies in its versatility. Here are a few delicious ways to put your own spin on this classic:

  • Citrus Twist: Add orange or grapefruit segments for a burst of citrusy sweetness.
  • Hearty Additions: Incorporate boiled potatoes or chickpeas for a more substantial salad.
  • Spice It Up: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or chili powder for those who enjoy a bit of heat.
  • Creative Toppings: Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, capers, or chopped roasted red peppers for added flavor and texture.

Serving Suggestions

Baccala Salad is an ideal light lunch, a delightful appetizer, or a side dish at a summer gathering. Here are some ways to enjoy it:

  • Spread: Serve the salad on crusty bread slices as a Mediterranean-style bruschetta.
  • On Greens: Enjoy a scoop on top of a bed of arugula or other tender mixed greens.
  • Seafood Feast: Pair it with other Mediterranean-inspired dishes like grilled octopus or calamari.

Tips for the Perfect Baccala Salt Cod Salad

  • Soaking is Key: To remove excess saltiness, soak your Baccala for at least 24 hours, changing the water periodically.
  • Quality Counts: Use the best quality Baccala you can find for optimal flavor.
  • Don’t Overcook: Poach the Baccala gently until just cooked through to maintain its delicate texture.

Baccala Salad is a celebration of simple flavors and the bounty of the Mediterranean. Its refreshing taste and adaptability make it a timeless classic that can be enjoyed in countless delicious ways.

Baccala Salt Cod Salad

Baccala Salt Cod Salad

Baccala? You might be thinking, 'what on earth is that?' Its appearance, like dried, salted fish jerky, has even been compared to a 'last-resort snack for those beyond the Wall' on Game of Thrones! But fear not, because when rehydrated, baccala transforms into a revelation. This unique ingredient boasts a surprisingly subtle cod flavor with a depth of character that comes from the salting process. Italian immigrants brought baccala across the Atlantic, and it's become a staple in many families' Christmas Eve traditions. This recipe, passed down in my cousin Donna's family, is for a delicious Italian-American baccala salad. Just be aware, preparation requires a little advanced planning, as you'll need to soak the baccala several days before serving.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian, Mediterranean
Servings 6

Equipment

  • Medium Skillet
  • Bowl
  • Large Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds salt cod
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup Gaeta or Kalamata olives oil-cured, pitted and halved
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Parsley and lemon wedges for serving

Instructions
 

  • In a nonreactive container, submerge the salt cod in cold water and refrigerate, changing the water every 8 hours for 2 to 3 days to remove most of the salt.
    2 pounds salt cod
  • Fill a large pot with 8 quarts cold water and add all the cod. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer. Cook until the fish breaks apart easily or flakes and is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. It will look opaque, not shiny, and still be sturdy and not soft.
    2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Strain and cool until you can handle the fish, and then remove any skin and bones. Break into bite-size pieces with a fork or your fingers. At this point you can store it for a few days, wrapped and refrigerated, but this salad will also hold for several days dressed if you wish to continue.
  • Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and sauté the garlic for 2 minutes; remove from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer the garlic oil to a bowl and add the fish, lemon juice, olives, capers, and parsley. Add the salt, pepper, and pepper flakes to taste.
    1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 cup Gaeta or Kalamata olives, 1/4 cup capers, Parsley and lemon wedges, Red pepper flakes
  • Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and adorn with parsley sprigs and lemon wedges. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Notes

Olives are easy to pit. Just press down on a few at a time under the flat blade of a chef’s knife, and the pits will pop out.
Keyword Cod, fish, fish salad, Salad, seafood
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