cherry tomatoes

Pasta à la Romana has been a Friday ritual at home ever since our friend Kristen taught us how to make it a few years ago. We enjoy it so much that we’ve even posted the recipe twice on the WC for your pleasure.

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

Last week I de-salted a large gorgeous piece of cod. The steaks looked so chunky that Steven suggested… no really hounded me to prepare it other than my customary Portuguese businessman’s cod or the classic bacalhoada. I’d been flirting with the idea of revisiting Vitória’s lovely arroz de bacalhau com broccolis, but my demanding spouse vetoed the plan.

look at these stunning pieces of salt cod fresh from their long soak

look at these stunning pieces of salt cod fresh from their long soak

Previously I’d seen a recipe for salt cod somewhat like I’m showing here today. That one didn’t require the desalinated fish be pre-cooked (via boiling), which is a real time-saver. Though since you omit the boiling step, you’ve got to really soak the fish extensively to get enough salt out.

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

1 lb spaghetti
~1 lb thick piece salt cod (soak for 2 days, changing water multiple times, keep refrigerated), drained and cut into 2-3 inch wide pieces
3 cloves garlic
1 Bay leaf
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
20 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt
Black pepper
28oz can of diced tomatoes
½ tsp dried oregano
2 dry chili de arbol, broken
1 red scallion, chopped fine

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring it to a boil.

Add olive oil to a large skillet followed by the garlic. Cook on low heat until aromatic. Add cod fish pieces and sauté, turning occasionally so all sides brown. Add chili, bay leaf, parsley and scallion, cover and let herbs wilt and cook. Now remove the lid, add tomato and oregano, some salt and pepper, bring temperature to high then when boiling reduce again to medium and cook to reduce and thicken the sauce. Reduce temperature to low.

Boil spaghetti for about ¾ of the cooking time suggested on the package, mine was 10 so I cooked it for about 7 minutes. Drain.

Add pasta to sauce and carefully toss it around the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes more to finish. Lastly, toss in Kalamata olives and tomato halves.

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This recipe is very aromatic and satisfying for a cool evening. The grilled eggplant gives the dish a lovely smoky flavor. All the herbs, fresh fennel and root veggies provide a supple elegance.

I’ve taken it from the Ottolenghi book, “Plenty,” with only minor modifications. Really tasty.

lentils with grilled eggplant

aromatic lentils with grilled eggplant

lentils with grilled eggplant

3 Japanese eggplant
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper
1 cup black lentils
3 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
2 stalks fennel with some bulb
Small bunch lemon thyme
½ white onion
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Sour cream for garnish

Set grill on highest temperature. Grill eggplant until soft and skin starts to char, turning occasionally, about ten minutes, Remove from heat, cover with plastic and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove stems and skin. Mash eggplant with a fork.

Pre-heat oven to 275F.

Rinse lentils and remove any stones or debris. Place in saucepan with one carrot, half stalk of celery, bay leaf, lemon thyme, onion and plenty of water. Cover and bring to boil then lower heat to simmer. Cook until tender. Remove celery, carrot, bay leaf, thyme and onion. Drain.

Cut fennel and remaining carrots and celery into small dice. I made mine too large. The book recommends about 3/8 of an inch. I mis-read this direction as ¾ inch. At any rate, think small. Toss with cherry tomato halves, some olive oil, the sugar, some salt then roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until tender but not mushy.

Mix roasted veggies with warm lentils. Add more olive oil, black pepper and salt to taste. Top with grilled eggplant and then a dollop or two of sour cream.

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