Saturday, May 19, 2007
Roasted Cod with Spring Garlic & Lemon
I started dance school in New York at the same time as a few students from the National Conservatory in Lisbon. One of them was Edgar, and he became a close friend.
I loved the stories he told of family life in the Algarve – his brothers had disapproving wives, his godmother had a beard and lots of gas – I wish I remembered more. Edgar was understandably homesick and at one point decided to make me his mother’s Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (salt cod with potatoes and onion).
The bacalhau had been soaking in his kitchen for 48 hours when we arrived after rehearsal. I think I was 22 and, though ravenous, was absolutely revolted by the oily pungency that filled the air. Fortunately, Edgar found my timidity hilarious and wouldn’t relent until I’d tried the fish. I’m sorry to say I hated it, but I was intrigued. And I’ve tasted salt cod since then, though only in Europe.
Perhaps it’s time for a rematch. I probably prepare fresh cod more than any other single fish. Mediterraneans have dried cod in salt for at least 500 years, and the fresh fish is delectable in soups, stews, fritters, and sautés.
Most often, though, I roast cod. Here with the first spring garlic, not to be confused with the young garlic bulbs that were planted last October and are now available (and delicious). Spring garlic is mild and versatile. It can be lightly caramelized without bitterness, and it can be used wherever mature garlic is called for with a far gentler flavor.
Depending on where you live, spring garlic may have already been available for a few weeks – sometimes it arrives with the ramps. But here in New York, I saw the first basket from Honey Hollow Farm on Wednesday. I’ve obviously stuck to fresh cod this time around, but I’ll let you know if I muster the strength to tackle something similar with the bacalhau.
Serves 3 – 4
1 lb fresh cod fillet, cut into 4 pieces
extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch spring garlic – about 4 shoots per person
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Rinse and pat dry the cod. Grease a baking dish with olive oil. Rub the cod fillets with lemon zest and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast uncovered for 10 – 15 minutes or just until the fish flakes with a fork.
Meanwhile, rinse the spring garlic well. Slice the white bulbs thinly, the pale green section in inch-long pieces, and the dark green shoots in half.
Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat and drizzle in some olive oil. Add the spring garlic and sprinkle generously with salt. Sauté, stirring often, until the white pieces are lightly browned and the dark green shoots are wilted.
Divide the spring garlic between the cod fillets and squeeze over the lemon juice. Serve immediately.