Baccala Salad - A Seven Fishes Highlight

Baccala Salad is my Cousin Leonora’s favorite Christmas Eve dish. In fact, she called prior to Christmas to confirm Baccala Salad would be on the menu. Silly girl, when did I ever not include it? “I know Kath, but it’s so darn expensive. Want me to buy it this year?” She’s so sweet. This salad is prepared with mild, simple vinaigrette rather than a heavily seasoned dressing in order to enhance and incorporate the fish and vegetable flavors.

I have to warn you, I make this to Baccala Salad to taste, that’s how mother taught me. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best to describe the process.

Baccala Salad

2 lbs. Salted Cod Fish
1 head Cauliflower
2 or 3 Carrots
3 or 4 Stalks of Celery
1 can medium black or green olives, pitted
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Red Wine Vinegar - one that is dark in color, I used Pompeian Gourmet this year
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste

The cod has to be soaked in water for at least two days in advance to remove the salt. I usually soak it in the refrigerator for three days. Two pounds of cod is typically two big filets. I cut them in half for workability purposes. Place the filets in a non-plastic bowl and cover completely with cold water. During the soaking process, the water will need to be changed at least twice a day. Simply dump the water rinse the bowl/fish briefly and refill. It is best to serve Baccala Salad chilled. I like to prepare this the night before to allow the vinaigrette flavors to incorporate in addition to chilling. The salad will last about seven days in the fridge.

To cook the baccala, set to boil enough water to fully cover the fish by two inches. When the water just begins to boil, add the fish. Bring water to a full boil, lower the heat a bit, and boil for about five minutes. The cod fish is done when it turns white begins to flake, and any thin skin that may be present has dissolved. Don’t leave the stove; you don’t want the fish overcooked. Immediately drain all of the water. Remove to a bowl and allow cooling.

Meanwhile, clean the vegetables, slice the fresh carrots and celery, and core the cauliflower. Steam the veggies to remove the hardness. Do not cook through. I like to steam the veggies on the stove and keep the remaining vegetable stock for future use. Combine the vegetables in a large bowl. By this time, the fish should be cool enough to handle. Gently flake the fish into the vegetables. The fish pieces will be a bit larger than a carrot slice. Toss lightly.

Sprinkle the mix with garlic powder, toss, and smell. If the fragrance of garlic is not faintly present, add more and repeat. Pour enough olive oil over the mix to coat but not puddle. Toss well. Sprinkle liberally with the wine vinegar and toss. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and one or two pinches of Italian seasoning. Toss again and taste. The flavor should be on the vinegary side with a hint of olive oil and garlic present. The Italian seasoning may go unnoticed at this point however, the salt is important here. If you think the salad needs more salt, add it now. Finally add the olives and toss.  Being forced to cut corners wherever I can but without compromising flavor, green Cerignola olives have been replaced with Mission black medium sized olive pieces. Refrigerate for at least six hours. Toss and serve.

For the record, Lenora took home a big container of Baccala Salad. She told me the food this year was the best we ever had!


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