Monday, January 18, 2016

The Cheater's Guide to Making Baccalà...

the easy way.

Baccalà in Italian simply means cod fish, but most people refer to salted codfish (or salt cod) as baccalà.  It is traditional to eat the dish referred to as "baccalà", as well as many other seafood dishes, on Christmas Eve in most Italian homes.

There are as many ways to make baccalà as there are Italians.  Southern Italians most often make their baccalà with salt cod, potatoes, and a red sauce.

Let's take the mystery out of this dish, and in the process, let's make it simple.  Why?  Because we can.

First off, let's take the main ingredient, salted codfish, and bury it in the back yard where it belongs.  Not only is it expensive, around $20.00 per lb for good salt cod, but before you can assemble the dish, the salt cod has to be soaked in water for about three days with frequent changes of water.   There's a reason it's called "salt" cod.  The fish has been dried and preserved in salt - as in, it's completely inedible without soaking all the salt off of it's ugly little body.

In today's modern world, where fresh or frozen cod is readily accessible, why anyone would want to go through such machinations is a question that needs some serious pondering. 

Does salt cod taste different than fresh cod?  Yes.  Since it has been dried and salted the texture is a bit chewier and the taste is a bit sweeter, while still maintaining a fish taste.  I don't care for the chewy and the difference in taste is not a big deal to me.  However, if you want to use salt cod, by all means do. 

Let's get started on the cheater's guide to baccalà.

If you're making this for 6 or fewer people purchase about three or four jars of your favorite jarred tomato sauce.  Yeah, I know.  Horrors!  Grandma would never use a jarred sauce.  Oh, yes she would.  The reason she didn't was because it was not available.  Capice??

It's perfectly okay to make your own sauce, but if you are too busy, scarf up your jarred sauce of choice.  I don't care which one you like.  My favorite available sauce is Silver Palate tomato/basil made with San Marzano tomatoes, the gold standard for paste tomatoes.  It's a bit pricier than most, so when it's on sale, I stock up.

  My usual sauce in a jar is Classico, because that's what Costco carries.  Prego is very popular, however, I find it to be one notch removed from poison, but don't let that stop you.  It's your baccalà, go with what you like.  And, like any good cook, feel free to embellish your jarred sauce with spices (can you say basil?), mushrooms, or whatever.

Cast about (couldn't resist) for some nice cod fillets.  If they're frozen allow them to thaw.  If they're thick, cut them length wise so they're only about one inch thick. Doing this while they're still a bit frozen will help to make sure you don't add a finger to your dish. Grab some paper towel and squeeze the excess moisture out of the fish, which will help ensure a flaky texture.  You should do this with all fish before cooking.

Next, buy a bunch of russet potatoes, otherwise known as Idaho potatoes, or baking potatoes.  Russets work so well because they are a mealy potato and soak up more sauce than other kinds of potatoes.

Scrub up those puppies and put them in the oven for a little precooking.  Let them cool off and slice them thinly.  Because you're using fresh fish, if the potatoes are not precooked, they'll still be raw when the fish is finished cooking. 

If you're in angst because I'm not giving you exact measurements, it's because I don't know how much baccalà you're making.  It's like making lasagna - you'll have to eyeball the whole affair. Only you are privy to how much you're making.  At the bottom of the post I'll list how much of each ingredient I used for a 9 x 13 pan of baccalà.

Open a few cans of pitted black olives. I like to use 1/2 pitted Kalamata and 1/2 plain 'ol grocery store black olives.


Spoon a bit of sauce in the bottom of your casserole pan. Make sure your pan is deep enough for at least three or four layers (think lasagna.)  Next make a layer of sliced potatoes slightly overlapping.  On top of the potatoes, make a layer of your fish.  Spoon on more sauce, a healthy layer of olives, and sprinkle heavily with Parmesan cheese.  Repeat until your pan is full.

I like to top the whole casserole off with lots of fresh grated mozzarella.  This is one area I don't go with the easy.  Those bags of already grated mozzarella should be buried in the back yard next to the salt cod.

Lightly cover your casserole with foil and bake for about 45 minutes at 350°.  Uncover the last 15 minutes or so to brown the top.

That's it.  No big whoop.

Oh, and before your guests arrive, ditch the empty sauce jars, the fresh cod wrappers, and the empty olive cans.  When they "oww and ahh" over all the work you must have done, just smile sweetly and say, "It was worth it."

Approximately what I used for a 9 x 13 pan:

Three large cod fillets split in half lengthwise
One jar of sauce
Two large russet potatoes precooked and thinly sliced
Two cans of black olives chopped
About a cup of kalamata olives chopped
About 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
About 2 cups mozzarella cheese


Salt Cod 101

Baccalà in White Sauce Recipe

Baccala alla Veneta

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pinterest and silver...

Finally got on Pinterest and have absolutely no idea of what I'm doing.  At the same time I'm working on a new daylily website for my business where I also have absolutely no idea of what I'm doing.  I dumped Intuit because I didn't find out until I had devoted scads of time that it would cost another $19.99 per month for any kind of a shipping calculator.  Now, that's just wrong!

I haven't been doing my morning pages, but I did get my two favorite fountain pens washed and filled.  It's a start. 

And all the time I spent downsizing?  Now I'm on a silver tray buying spree.  Do I need these trays?  Uh, duh - that would be no.  Sigh...

A new bread tray and I'm not even supposed to be eating bread.  What's up with that?

But, but - it was such a good deal!!

The detail is lovely.  Maybe I can put plastic wrap on the bottom and use it for cauliflower or broccoli (except crusty three cheese semolina bread would look waaaaaaaay better!)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Morning pages...

a great way to start the day.

I have been very lax at keeping up with my "morning pages."  I was introduced to morning pages by Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way.

From Julia:
Morning pages are three pages of writing (long hand) anything that comes to your head. Julia Cameron suggests that you make Morning Pages a practice that you keep every day while you are working through The Artist's Way, and hopefully, beyond.

When I first read about Morning Pages, my first thoughts were...Everyday? 3 pages? Only by hand? She's GOT to be kidding! What will I write about?

The point to Morning Pages isn't to write incredible, novel-quality prose. The writing you do in your Morning Pages may not even be suitable for a letter to a friend! It's the little bits and pieces that run around in your head out of control. The words may not even piece together into full sentences. What you write doesn't have to make sense to any person on the face of the planet -- or even to yourself a few days later.

I compare Morning Pages to my morning shower. While I'm not visually dirty in the morning, I feel refreshed and ready for my day after taking a shower. Your shower takes care of your body. Morning Pages is a shower for your heart, mind, and soul. There's no visible "dirt," but there might be something under the surface that needs attention. Or maybe a dream or two looking for a place to land. Or maybe a list of things you want to get done during the day. Or just random thoughts that plague you like a song you can't get out of your head.

When you start doing Morning Pages, you'll be surprised at the things you find lurking within. And, just as you feel refreshed when you step out of the shower, your mind, heart, and soul will feel refreshed after writing Morning Pages. You will walk a little lighter. Your mind will be more focused on the task(s) at hand. Your thinking will be more clear. Your heart will be open -- so you may find yourself more patient or less irritated with the day's events. 
read the rest.  Julia offers some great tips and techniques.
Need more ideas and reasons for journaling?  Roger Hiemstra helps in Uses and Benefits of Journal Writing

Besides, who doesn't love a cute notebook?  

This is the journal I am currently using.  It was a hard cover 8 1/2 x 11 notebook from a bookstore.  I did the cover by using wallpaper from some old wallpaper sample books.

Front Cover

Back Cover

Spine.  I covered right over the plastic rings

And, yes - I use a fountain pen.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Outside my window...

there are many things to see.

A few months ago I moved one of the desks in my office to our bedroom. I took over my hubbies ugly little computer desk.   After shoving it around for awhile, I discovered I could put it at an angle by the window in my office. Hubby hung a bird-feeder in the tree and the rest, as they say, is history.

Birds aren't the only thing I see out my window.  I see sunsets, cars coming down our private road, and our neighbor walking his dog in the morning.

Last week I saw our first robins - quite early, too.  Spring is on the way.

Click to embiggen

The bird-feeder

Sunset last week

Hard to tell, but these are indeed robins

Repositioning my desk was a good move...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to save thousands of dollars every year...

it's really quite easy.

NB:  Included on this list is things that we actually do.  There are many more ideas.  Spend some time frequenting some good sites like Frugal Hacks.   And Frugal Dad (an excellent site) has a list of the top frugal sites for 2011.

  • Have a zero-based budget every month. Every dollar is "spent" and every dollar has a name.
  • Dump the cable TV.
  •  Plan your shopping trips based on the sale ads. Most grocery stores have them online.
  • Buy items in bulk. Split perishables with a friend. We favor Costco in our home and save thousands each year with just what we purchase at Costco.
  • Drive less by planning your errands carefully.  
  • Buy a permanent washable furnace filter and wash it monthly. My filter is at least 15 years old now.
  • Don't buy clothes that must to be dry cleaned. Most clothes marked "dry clean only" are actually washable.
  • Stay out of Starbucks.
  • Take your lunch to work.
  • Buy your bread at a day old bakery.
  • Frequent your public library instead of buying books.
  • Buy used cars.
  • Use Craigslist or shop thrift stores for other used items like furniture.
  • Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.
  • Only use air conditioning when you absolutely have to. Try a box fan in the window instead (we don't even have air conditioning.)
  • Don't make "recreational" shopping a regular part of your life.
  • Put dimmer switches on your lights.
  • Cut your paper towel rolls in half and use one side at a time. Better yet use rags for most clean ups.
  • Hang your clothes out to dry in the summer. In the winter, only dry partially in the dryer and hang to finish drying. Your clothes will last longer, too.
  • Wash and reuse your zip-lock bags
  • Attend movies at bargain times and don't go near the concession stand. Do you really need to eat in order to watch a movie?
  • DON'T USE CREDIT CARDS!!! Sorry for shouting. This is a biggie!
  • Start a home-based business.

Dave Ramsey links:

Seven Baby Steps
Dave's Budgeting Forms
How to Budget an Irregular Income

From:  Getting Finances Done:    How to create a zero-based budget


Workers Spend $3,000 a Year on Coffee, Lunch

What do you do to save money?

Monday, February 6, 2012

New site...

no - not quite yet, but soon.

It's actually sort of funny that my hits are so high here when I never post.  That's all going to change soon.  I'm probably going to move on to my own domain name, possibly on WordPress (be still my beating heart.)

What direction am I going to take?  I have no idea.  I do know this: a constant stream of DIY, decorating, tablescapes, and recipes (much as I like these things) can never be the sole purpose of my life or my blog. 
I admire the ladies who can maintain a focus on one area.  I can't do that. 

I am also in serious need of a new name.  The dePitera must be dropped (for personal reasons), which is why I'm probably going to give WordPress a try.

In the meantime, I'll be doing some posts here while I work this all out.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

In other news:

Last September we adopted a rescue doggie.  Since our precious Elle and Sophie died two years ago, we have been "dogless" and sort of enjoying it.  That is, until last September when Frankie wormed his cute little self into our lives.

Say hello to Frankie:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let's talk about grilled corn on the cob...

because who doesn't like corn on the cob? 

A few weeks ago I ran into a recipe that called for soaking the corn in salt water before grilling.  Hmmmmmmm.  Maybe you guys have heard of that, but somehow that piece of info escaped my beady little eyes.  I did my usual careful research and combining all my new knowledge, this is what I came up with:

I stripped the outer husks of the corn down to the paler ones.  Keep in mind this was only two ears of corn.   I left most the silk on as many sites promised it would pull right out after grilling (it did.)  I crammed it into a pot filled with cold water and a whole bunch (about 1/4 cup or more)  of salt for several hours.   It fit snugly in the pot which kept it underwater so I didn't have to turn it.  If the corn doesn't stay under water, fill a jar with water and plunk on top of the corn keeping it submerged and saving you the time of turning. 

I grilled my marinated pork chops first and popped them in the oven to keep warm and threw the corn on the grill.  With only a few turns and after about 10 minutes we pulled off the husks, brushed on melted butter and some Kosher salt and enjoyed the sweetest and juiciest corn we've ever eaten.  

I've since grilled corn this way several more times with the same wonderful results.


1. Does the corn taste salty?  No.  Sweet, sweet, sweet.
2. Do you rinse after the salt soak?  Not necessary.
3. Direct heat or indirect heat?   Either.  I've used both and the only difference is the cooking time.

Next to try?

 Bacon wrapped around grilled corn?  What could go wrong? 

The future of this blog: 

Where am I going with this blog?  Probably nowhere.  I plan on starting a new blog with a new name.  I have personal reasons to remove myself from the name dePitera (even though it's mine) and I plan on going in a new directions.  When that happens I will have a permanent link posted here to my new blog.  I don't plan on deleting this blog as I still get over several hundred hits per day (really??) with people looking for specific info. 

I have a political blog that consumes the majority of my time.  I believe that this country and our citizens are in danger of being consumed by "well-meaning" people who are essentially Marxist. I'm a conservative who believes the killing of children in the womb is an abomination.  I believe that we, not the government, should be in charge of our own health care, and the federal government is not only out of control but acting in a way that is completely unconstitutional.  It's really hard to concentrate on tea cups and draperies when we are in mortal danger of losing all of our liberties.  On the other hand, recognizing the beauty in our world is more important now then it has ever been. 

It's a conundrum....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Daylily Sale Saturday, August 13

9am - 1pm

Can't make it on Saturday?
Give us call and we'll arrange another day and time

4930 E. Horsehaven
Post Falls, Idaho

One mile north of I-90 on Hwy 41
Go east on Horsehaven (look for Pro Builder Lumber sign) to end of pavement
Straight ahead on gravel road
Second house w/ circular drive

What's on Sale?

Frans Hal


Catherine Woodbury

Rocket City

Sunshine Splendor

Gentle Shepherd


Prairie Belle



Little Missy

Red Rum

Red wine (available in bulk only)
Click on pictures to enlarge...
Bonanza planted en masse

Some of the daylily beds in full bloom

More fields in bloom
See you Saturday...