Two of the Seven – Part Two: INSALATA DI BACCALA!
Welcome to Part Two of the latest post: Two of the Seven: INSALATA DI BACCALA (Baccala Salad). We left off a few days ago discussing the cherished and renowned tradition of the Italian Christmas Eve: The Feast of the Seven Fishes. This feast brings Italian families to the table to celebrate together the culmination of the season of Advent which is known as Natale. So many fishes – only so much space at the table! This does not deter the seemingly endless courses, types, and preparations of seafood that grace the tables of Italians worldwide on this night.
As we discussed previously, Baccala or Salt Cod traditionally plays an important role at this feast. Presenting it in different ways at this meal is not uncommon. Zuppa di Baccala or Baccala Soup as shown in the step-by-step demonstration from my last post,Baccala-Two Of The Seven , is only one preparation. Another totally different preparation is Insalata di Baccala or Baccala Salad. This is a beautiful, vibrant, and very fresh tasting dish that can be made a day ahead and chilled. It makes a wonderful and unexpected antipasto or first course.
Just as we did in the recipe for the soup, once again, we will soak the Salt Cod for 24-48 hours, changing the water several times to “wash” the salt out and reconstitute and soften the fish. As I have done in the past, I will use my mother’s recipe and add a couple of my own ideas. One addition I have made is to roast the cauliflower, one of the recipe ingredients, instead of steaming or boiling it. I think it gives a richer flavor to the dish as a whole and also gives the cauliflower an almost nutty quality.
INSALATA DI BACCALA
Serves about 6-8 as appetizer or antipasto
1 lb Salt Cod – soaked in cold water 24-48 hours, changing water several times
Items for Poaching:
1 qt. water
1 c. white wine
Juice of a Lemon
2 Bay Leaves
Several Lemon slices
After Cod is reconstituted, bring the above ingredients for poaching to a boil in pan.
Drop pieces of fish into the poaching liquid and reduce heat immediately.
You do not want to boil the Cod but simmer gently for 5 minutes or more until fish is tender and will pull apart with a fork.
Remove pieces of fish to a plate to cool.
When cool enough to handle, cut fish into 2 inch pieces. This is very easy as the fish tends to break at the touch. Remove any bones you find but usually the dried fish now comes pre-boned. Set aside in large bowl.
4 c. cauliflower cut into small pieces
Drizzle cauliflower with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes until just fork tender – not mushy or soft
When cool – add to cod in bowl.
Add the following ingredients to the bowl and toss gently to mix:
3 Tbsp. Capers – rinsed
3/4 c. Peperoncini – chopped
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
3 cloves chopped fresh garlic
1 c. Black Olives
In another bowl mix the dressing ingredients and add to the large bowl of salad ingredients – toss:
1/2 c. Olive Oil
Juice of 1 Fresh Lemon
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
At this point you can chill the dish ( a day before serving if you like). The salad keeps a few days in the refrigerator. Before serving, toss gently again and taste to see if seasoning needs refreshing. If you like, drizzle with a good Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
PARLA COME MANGI!
Also: See the RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE!
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography