Latin Twist: Typical Catalan Salad “Esqueixada”

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Mis queridos amigos, my salad kick continues!

When I had the great pleasure of visiting Barcelona a couple of weeks ago (now seems long ago!) I had dinner at my former roommate’s home. She prepared an amazing, amazing meal… Part of it included the Pan con Tomate and Tortilla Española — which I’ve written about. But one thing was new to me: Esqueixada — which is a lovely salad.

Pronounced “Es-kay-HA-da” in Spanish, this gorgeous salad gets its name from the Catalan verb to tear or rip (exqueizar); this is because the salted cod — used in the original recipe — is torn as part of the preparation for the dish. Usually served in the summer and is made with tomato slices, green pepper, onion, black olives, and bacalao. This version, which adopts  orange slices in lieu of tomato, is what Chef Marga calls Winter Esqueixada (Esqueixada de Invierno), which, considering the snow, is quite timely! (Actually, I’m thinking that this version may be on my Christmas Eve menu!)

Let me touch on the fish bit for a moment. Bacalao — or salted cod — is a ubiquitous recipe ingredient in Spain, and certainly in many parts of the Americas (among other places in the world). But if you are not into rehydration thing (placing the salted cod in water for 6 to 8 hours to rehydrate, and draining many times to remove the excess salt), you do have options. In fact, you can use any firm-ish white fish (thinking haddock, tilapia, cod, snapper).

And about seafood sustainability concerns, To quote Mark Bittman in his New York Times Magazine article from March 2011,  “… if you buy from a reliable store, like Target, Wegmans or Whole Foods, which have adopted seafood-sustainability practices far more effectively than many other major retailers, or consult online sources like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you can eat white-fleshed fish without guilt.”

Back to the recipe—Here’s my version of Marga’s—which I would enjoy as a side, or as a lunch/light dinner with a nice glass of white wine.

Marga’s Winter Salad

Serves 4 to 6

2 tomatoes, grated (skin removed)
1 to 2 oranges, pith removed, and sliced (remove seeds) into quarters (see photo!)
1 1 /2 pounds fresh (or frozen) cooked white fish (cod, tilapia, snapper—or other!), chilled and torn into slices (see photo!)
3/4 cup roasted pistachio nuts
1/2 cup sliced black (or green) olives
1 thinly sliced blanched white (or red) onion
Olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

First set up the plates you’ll be using. Using a spoon, spread the grated tomato sauce evenly on each plate (as if you were “greasing” the plate!). Add the orange quarters, followed by the fish slices. Add the onions, and olives. Drizzle with oiive oil and cover and refrigerate if desired (for up to 3 hours). Top with salt and pepper and pistachios just before serving. ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

Picture below with Chef Marga 

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About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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