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Escarole Salad with Salt Cod, Anchovies and Olives

Escarole Salad with Salt Cod, Anchovies and Olives
The basis of this salad, known as xató in Spanish, is a bed of crisp curly escarole, crunchy and satisfying, combined with strips of salt cod, anchovies, tuna and a scattering of black olives. But the true glory of xató is its sauce, a kind of romesco made with pounded almonds and hazelnuts, nyora peppers, garlic and olive oil. The genius of the dish 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.

Serve with a fragrant, young white wine, such as a Spanish Sauvignon Blanc.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. salt cod

  • For the sauce:
  • 1⁄2 cup blanched almonds
  • 4 nyora or romesco peppers or ancho chilies,
     or 1 tsp. pimentón or hot paprika
  • 1 slice coarse country white bread, about
     1 oz., crusts removed
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 8 to 10 hazelnuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 6 oz. olive oil–packed canned tuna, drained
     and separated into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 3⁄4 cup black olives, preferably Arbequina
  • 1 head escarole, cored and separated into leaves

Directions:

To prepare the salt cod, place it in a bowl of cold water to cover, cover the bowl and refrigerate for 3 days, changing the water once a day.

To make the sauce, in a dry, heavy fry pan over medium heat, toast the almonds until browned, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate to cool. If using nyora peppers, let them soak in boiling water for 10 minutes, then scrape the flesh off the skins. Sprinkle the coarse country bread with the vinegar. Using a large mortar and pestle, grind together the almonds, hazelnuts, garlic, the 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 ingredients are thoroughly combined and the sauce is just liquid enough to be poured. Season with salt. (The sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week. Use leftover sauce with roast meats or vegetables.)

Remove any bones and skin from the salt cod, then shred the meat with your fingers into thin strips. Cut or tear the anchovy fillets into strips. Place the salt cod, anchovies and tuna in a bowl with the tomatoes and olives and toss to combine. Pour over enough of the sauce to coat everything thickly and toss again.

Just before serving, in a large salad bowl, toss the escarole with the salt cod mixture. Serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Barcelona, by Paul Richardson (Oxmoor House, 2004).