The genius of this dish, known as xató in Catalunya, Spain, is the way the rich, nutty sauce combines with the salty chunks of fish and the satisfying crunch of escarole. A loaf of crusty bread is essential to mop up the delicious sauce left at the bottom of your plate. Any leftover sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week. Serve it drizzled over roast meats or vegetables.
Escarole Salad with Salt Cod, Anchovies and Olives
- 6 oz. (170 g) salt cod
- 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) blanched almonds
- 1 slice coarse country white bread (about 1 oz./30 g), crust removed
- 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 8 to 10 hazelnuts
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 romesco peppers or ancho chiles, or 1 tsp. pimentón picante (hot Spanish smoked pepper)
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt
- 8 cured anchovy fillets
- 6 oz. (170 g) olive oil–packed canned tuna, drained and separated into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
- 2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup (4 oz./125 g) small black olives such as Arbequina
- 1 head escarole, cored and leaves separated
1. To desalt the salt cod, put it in a bowl and add cold water to cover, cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 days, changing the water once a day.
2. To make the sauce, in a dry, heavy fry pan, toast the almonds over medium heat until browned, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Sprinkle the bread with the vinegar. Using a large mortar and pestle, grind together the almonds, hazelnuts, garlic, peppers, and the vinegar-soaked bread until a thick, reddish paste forms. (Alternatively, process the ingredients together in a food processor, making sure the mixture remains coarse.) Add the olive oil in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is just liquid enough to be poured. Season with salt and set aside.
4. Drain the salt cod. Remove any bones and skin, then shred the meat with your fingers into thin strips. Cut or tear the anchovy fillets into strips. Put the salt cod, anchovies and tuna in a bowl, add the tomatoes and olives, and toss to combine. Pour over enough of the sauce to coat everything thickly and toss again.
5. Just before serving, in a large salad bowl, toss the escarole with the salt cod mixture. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Find more than 100 recipes for the simple, unassuming and satisfying food of the Spanish countryside in Rustic Spanish, by Paul Richardson.