If you don’t have your own Italian family, find a friend whose last name ends in a vowel and show up on his mom’s doorstep on the 24th. The meal my own mother is about to go to work on is not quite a feast of seven fishes, but close.
As her Christmas gift to you, dear reader, she is passing on one of her most highly praised recipes, a baccalà salad. The baccalà course comes after the seafood salad and the spaghetti with clams and before the salmon stuffed with artichokes. Yes, I said baccalà course—a trio of pureed, fried, and this salad.
Carole Lalli’s Baccalà Salad
1 pound salt cod, soaked at least 24 hours, or according to fishmonger’s advice
3/4 cup green Sicilian olives, pitted and quartered
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup celery hearts, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 small red onion, diced
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (if you don’t have fresh, use parsley instead)
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup full-flavored extra virgin olive oil
salt, if necessary
These measurements are all subject to your own judgment (my mother mostly measures by eye—the salad should be colorful and the tomato, cod, and olives should be around the same size).
Using a fork, or better yet, your fingers, break the cod into bite-sized pieces.
Toss everything together, then dress with the oil and lemon juice. The cod will probably retain enough salt to make it unnecessary (or even insane) to add more.