While traveling recently in Spain, I found myself in a garden of oceanic delicacies unparalleled in variety and fresh beauty. The seafood stalls in Barcelona’s small but swelling La Boqueria Food Market are filled with the previous day’s catch. (There are no fish on Mondays!)
Beautiful Monkfish stripped naked of its skin and glistening white under the cold lights. Anchovies, sardines and eels ranging in size between my thumb and forearm look almost alive in their fresh radiance on ice. More varieties of octopus, squid and cephalopods, like cuttlefish, snails and whelks, were all offered up to the throngs of tourists and chefs queuing early to get the best, biggest, and tastiest catch of the day.
One of the most interesting and delicious fish sold in Spain is a delicacy not often found on the Pacific coast. The handsome and masculine cod is a meaty, robust-fleshed fish which can stand up to strong, spicy and rich flavours. This characteristic lends itself to being a great fish to preserve through salt curing and drying.
Integral in culture and cuisine throughout the Mediterranean, Iceland and Eastern Canada – bacalao (Spanish), bakaiļao (Basque), bacallà (Catalan) baccalà (Italian) salt cod (Canada) has been fished and overfished for the past 3000 years. In 1992 a moratorium was placed over Atlantic Canada cod and the species is now in a state of slow recovery. Most of the cod we now find in markets around the world is in fact called stockfish coming from Norway, and it is delicious.
Salt cod can found in Vancouver at Bosa Foods, located at 1465 Kootenay Street, as well at the wonderful Cioffi’s Meat Market and Deli at 4142 Hastings Street.
Both markets are like a Mediterranean food lovers’ holiday, where one may get lost in time walking the isles and dreaming of the next dinner.
Chorizo, salt cod and summer squash dulce y amargo
It’s squash season – hit your local farmers’ market and grab a variety zucchini for this recipe
- 500g dry cured chorizo sausage cut into 1 cm dices
- 500g salt cod (soaked for 48 hours, changing the water every 8 hours)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 pinch saffron
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 1 cup julienne red onion
- 1/2 cup ripe tomato, diced
- 1 kg zucchini, sliced into 1 cm discs
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup green olives
- 1/4 cup mixture of fresh parsley leaves, dill fronds and lemon juice to taste
Drain the cod and place in a medium pot with the water, bay and buttermilk. Slowly poach the cod until it is tender and ready to flake. Gently remove the fish from the liquid and reserve. Place the remaining liquid bay and saffron in a blender and blitz at high speed with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil to emulsify. Reserve. This can be used for a vinaigrette or savoury pancake later.
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and chorizo until the sausage starts to colour. Add the fennel seed, onion and tomato and season with salt and pepper. Cool until the tomatoes release their juice and then tighten back up. Add the zucchini and cook until they start to soften. Add the honey and vinegar and 1/2 cup of the cod broth. Simmer until the dish pulls together and the squash is tender and glazed. Add the cod to the pan and flake it so that it is distributed evenly throughout. Add the olives and herbs, adjust the seasoning and finish generously with lemon juice.
Serve on a platter at room temperature.
Jonathan Chovancek is the executive chef at Vancouver breakfast, lunch and brunch institution Café Medina as well as the co-proprietor of Bittered Sling Bitters, a retail line of small-batch, artisanal cocktail and culinary bitters. A celebrated chef and avowed champion of the Slow Food movement, Jonathan’s more than 20-year career has included stints at some of Canada’s most acclaimed establishments.