Starting with the much-loved baccalà. Friday means salt cod in Tuscany, a tradition that’s still observed throughout the region with certain shops only selling it on that day alone, while traditional markets ensure its availability every day of the year. It’s the main ingredient in many recipes and is cooked in countless ways. Baccalà is cod that is caught in the northernmost waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, then salted in countries like Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Iceland and Canada.
It seems like cod underwent this type of preservation centuries ago, the same method used for whale meat. Traditional recipes call for baccalà to be fried, cooked in tomato sauce, stewed or grilled. The version featuring leeks is intriguing and the one with chickpeas is pure comfort food, while a modern recipe sees the cod cooked slowly in extra-virgin olive oil.
Herrings, on the other hand, are oily fish that also live in the North Sea. There’s a thriving preservation industry in these countries as only a small percentage of the herrings are eaten fresh; they are mostly salted (staying a silver colour), smoked or preserved in oil (heading towards golden). In the early 1900s, herrings were often served with polenta, whereas today they appear as starters or in salads in contrast with other sweeter ingredients. Try herrings served with stewed onions as a toast topping or preserved in oil as fillets with carrots, celery and chopped parsley.