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.