Flavors of Brazil on salt cod (bacalhau) associated in Brazil and elsewhere with Lent and the pre-Easter season. Although the most traditional uses of this fish are in main-course hot dishes, salt cod is an adaptable ingredient, and innovative chefs in Brazil are finding new uses for it in all kinds of dishes - particularly salads.
This recipe, from gula.com.br, is a main-course salad featuring lentils and flaked salt cod. Combined with plenty of good, crusty French bread, it's all you need for a substantial mid-day meal. Just remember that you need to plan in advance, though, as the salt cod takes 48 hours for the de-salting process.
RECIPE - Lentil and Salt Cod Salad (Salada de Lentilhas com Bacalhau)
1 1/2 cup lentils, French Le Puy lentils preferred, but brown lentils can be substituted
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 lb (1 kg) good-quality salt cod fillets
8 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 cup loosely-packed, chopped, fresh herbs - choose from a mixture of parsley, mint, cilantro, basil, green onion
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste.
48 hours before serving cover the salt cod with plenty of cold water and place in refrigerator. Drain and change the water several times a day. When de-salted, simmer the fillet in a large pan, with water to cover, for about 20-30 minutes, or until the fish is tender and begins to flake. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the fish cool in it. When cool, drain the fish then separate it into flakes. Let the flakes cool completely, then reserve.
Using a large heavy pan add the lentils then cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, the reduce heat and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still firm enough to retain their shape. Check frequently to make sure the lentils do not overcook. When cooked, drain the lentils into a colander and refresh immediately with plenty of running cold water. Let drain completely and reserve.
In a heavy frying pan heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, and when hot add the chopped onions. and cook until the onions are golden. Add the minced garlic, cooking for a minute or so until the garlic releases its aroma. Then add the reserved salt cod and cook for a few minutes, stirring carefully from time to time. Try not to break up the flakes of fish. Remove from heat.
Put the salt cod mixture in a large mixing bowl, then the lentils, the tomato cubes and the chopped herbs. Pour the vinegar over the top, then add olive oil slowly while carefully stirring the mixture until the right consistency has been reached (well-dressed but not overly oily). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Mound the salad on individual serving plates, and just before serving drizzle additional olive oil over each salad.