It is the season, I know, for pumpkins and squashes, for persimmons and stews, and soups, of course. It is autumn, after all. And yet, I’m thinking fish, and had to make bacalao en salsa verde, cod in salsa verde, green sauce —cod, as you know, is one of my favorite kinds of fish. When I’m in Spain, I buy it in salt, then soak it for hours, changing the water a few times. In America, I’ve been able to find salt cod, at the Oriental store. However, today I used fresh cod, and didn’t need the water baths. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D, cod is not only delicious but nutritious.
I very much like the cod that comes from the sea off the north coast of Spain, the Cantábrico, which they prepare “en salazón”, salted with the skin on, until ready to use. Keeping the skin on is very helpful to thicken the sauce, and the fresh cod I used came without it. But as you know, I won’t be dissuaded from making cod in salsa verde in the Midwest. The recipe I’m sharing today is delicious, at the same time light and filling, the way I like it. The secret of bacalao en salsa verde, cod in green sauce, is the thick sauce, which comes together by slow circular movements of the casserole over the heat. Merluza en salsa verde, hake in green sauce, is a dish typical of the Pais Vasco, the Pays Basque, in the north of Spain. I can’t find hake where I live in the Midwest, but cod makes for a perfect substitution.
Making fish always reminds me of my homeland, and the markets, like the Mercado Central de Valencia. With its booths of salt cod, seafood and all sorts of shrimp and langoustines, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and myriad seasoned olives, dozens of varieties of snails, nuts, and of course, charcuterie, like our famous jamón de bellota and jamón serrano, cured iberico ham hanging to dry, Mercado Central de Valencia has become a tourist attraction. Middle-aged women that have been shopping there daily during their whole lives mix naturally with the groups of young people strolling by its aisles, stopping for a caña, a small draft beer, or a cortado, a double espresso with a splash of hot milk, and snapping photos here and there.
When I leave the market with my bag of goods, ready to be cooked, I stroll through the Ciutat Vella, the old city, passing by La Lonja, stopping at the San Buenaventura church, and the terraces with people having their aperitivo before lunch. What a wonderful way of life.
COD IN SALSA VERDE
Bacalao en Salsa Verde
3 cod filets
5 cloves garlic
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
A few sprigs parsley
1/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup seafood stock
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup green peas
Sea salt to taste
Wash the cod and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the filets in two or three pieces, about 3-inches long, and season lightly with salt.
Mince 4 garlic cloves. Finely chop the parsley. Set both aside.
In a wide pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Place a clove of garlic in the center. When it starts to sizzle, remove from the oil and lower the heat to low. Add the minced garlic and the red pepper flakes. Add the pieces of cod in one layer, skin side up. Gently and constantly move the pan in a circular motion, 5-6 minutes. Add the wine and reduce, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the seafood stock and cook for 5 minutes, while continuing gently moving the pan (the gelatin released by the fish will help the sauce come together). Sprinkle with minced parsley and add the peas.