Even though salt cod (baccalà) is so popular in our kitchen as if it were a local product, it actually makes a long journey, which begins in the seas of Northern Europe, before reaching our tables. Imported to Italy in the first half of the 15th century by the Venetian merchant Piero Querini, stockfish (dried cod) soon became widely used due to its cheapness and the possibility of being consumed even on Fridays, a day when, according to Catholic tradition, you do not eat meat. In our area the use of the softer salt cod is equally widespread.
It seems that the salting procedure of the cod is to be attributed to the Basque fishermen who, following the shoals of whales to the North Sea, came across huge shoals of cod not far from the island of Newfoundland and used for this fish the conservation procedure adopted for whale meat. Before using both salt cod and stockfish, a long immersion in cold water is necessary, in order to remove salt for the first and to restore the original consistency of meat for the second.
Our chef Libera Iovine pays homage to this ingredient with a simple recipe, which enhances its flavor thanks to slow cooking at low temperature and to sweet and sour vegetables.
Ingredients for 4 persons:
Put the salt cod pieces (in Italy it is possible to buy pre-soaked baccalà, ready to cook) in a pan with high sides, cover it with oil and add the garlic and the bay leaves. Bake at 65°C for 3 hours. In order to prepare the sweet and sour vegetables, after having washed them and cut them into thin strips, arrange them in glass jars (all vegetables can go in the same jar, except for the onions that require a separate one).
Put in a saucepan vinegar, wine, garlic, ginger, sugar and bay leaves and cook until boiling for 5 minutes. Pour the hot content of the saucepan over the vegetables in the jars, cover them and let rest until you are ready to serve (the vegetables can be prepared even a day before).
Arrange the slow cooked salt cod on plates with dry sweet and sour vegetables and season with the cooking oil and small basil leaves.