Poached Salt Cod Salad with Sweet Peppers

Pieces of slightly sweet, pleasantly chewy poached salt cod feature in this hearty salad of sweet peppers, purslane, herbs, and cherry tomatoes. After soaking in water to rehydrate and remove salt, the fillets of salt cod get poached in a bath of olive oil, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme, infusing them with flavor and giving the fish some succulence. The cooled oil and aromatics are then strained and used in a parsley puree to dress the salad and to blister the sweet peppers, layering flavor into every element of the dish. 2004 F&W Best New Chef Melissa Perello of Octavia and Frances in San Francisco, who shared her recipe with Food & Wine, suggests using Jimmy Nardello peppers here if you can find them. "One of my favorite markers of the season is seeing sweet peppers pop up at the farmers market, and Jimmy Nardellos are some of my favorite peppers to work with. (If you're local to the Bay Area, Full Belly Farm's are excellent.) In this hearty salad, the peppers complement the poached cod with rich sweetness and acidity."

Poached Salt Cod Salad with Sweet Peppers
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
13 hrs 25 mins


  • 1 (10 1/2-ounce) skinless salt cod fillet

  • 12 medium garlic cloves (from 2 garlic heads), peeled

  • 4 (4-inch) thyme sprigs

  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf

  • 2 to 3 cups olive oil, as needed

  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems (from 1 bunch parsley)

  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • 12 medium-size sweet mini peppers, Jimmy Nardello peppers, or shishito peppers (6 to 8 ounces)

  • 8 cups fresh purslane, sorrel, or watercress (about 8 ounces)

  • 12 Sun Gold cherry tomatoes (about 6 ounces), halved lengthwise

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar

  • Toasted breadcrumbs (optional)


  1. Rinse cod under cool water to remove as much salt as possible. Place cod in a large container, bowl, or pot; add water to cover cod by 2 inches. Cover and let cod soak in refrigerator at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours, changing water about 4 times throughout.

  2. Remove soaked cod from water; discard water, and gently pat fish dry with paper towels. (The fish should have softened considerably.) Place fish in a small saucepan just large enough for it to fit snugly. Add garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf. Add oil as needed to just cover fish, and make sure the pan is tall enough that there are a few inches of space remaining to prevent any oil spilling over as it cooks. Bring cod mixture to a gentle simmer over low. Simmer, covered, until cod is tender and flakes easily with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes. (If your fish is very thin, check after 15 minutes.) Transfer cod to a medium bowl; gently flake into bite-size pieces with a fork, and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Let oil mixture cool at room temperature 10 minutes.

  3. Pour cooled oil mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl; reserve garlic cloves, and discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Transfer strained oil to refrigerator, and let chill completely, about 30 minutes.

  4. Pulse parsley, capers, crushed red pepper, 6 poached garlic cloves, and 1 cup reserved poaching oil in a food processor until mixture is coarsely chopped and blended into a salsa-like texture, 8 to 10 pulses. Stir in lemon zest and juice; season with salt to taste. Set puree aside, uncovered and at room temperature, until ready to use.

  5. Heat 2 tablespoons reserved poaching oil in a 12-inch skillet over high. Add half of the peppers to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers blister and begin to pop, 1 to 2 minutes. (If you have a splatter guard, this is a great time to use it.) Transfer blistered peppers to a plate, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Repeat cooking process with remaining peppers, adding more poaching oil as needed and sprinkling blistered peppers with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reserve remaining poaching oil for another use.

  6. Toss together purslane, tomatoes, vinegar, flaked cod, peppers, and remaining 6 poached garlic cloves in a large bowl to combine; season with salt to taste.

  7. Drizzle 1/4 cup parsley puree on a plate or platter; arrange salad mixture on plate. Garnish with breadcrumbs, if desired, and serve with remaining 3/4 cup parsley puree on the side for drizzling.

Suggested Pairing

Light, peppery Italian red: Castello di Verduno Basadone Pelaverga

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