Fall in Spain means pomegranates at their peak and the first oranges of the long citrus season. With their vibrant colors, these fruits provide contrast to colder, shorter days.
This salad that combines the two awakens all of the senses with its bold colors, flavors, textures and aromas. Tart and sweet oranges and pomegranates share a plate with flaked salt cod, black olives and grated egg. The dressing—a salmon-hued pomegranate, orange and olive oil emulsion—unifies the contrasting components in each bite. A final spritz of orange flower water kicks the senses into high gear.
I encountered this recipe in the Al-Andalus chapter of Recetas con historia (Recipes with History), a cookbook by Ángeles Díaz Simón. “Although this preparation does not appear in any cookery book before the twelfth century,” she writes, “it’s of clear Arab inspiration.” Salads of fruit, dried fish and olives appear frequently in culinary texts of the period.
We can see this legacy in the sweet, sour and savory contrasts; in the beauty and harmony on the plate; and in the ingredients themselves. Arabs brought pomegranates and oranges to the Iberian peninsula in the Middle Ages. The trees decorated and perfumed palace and mosque courtyards, and the fruits flavored court cuisine (the oranges were bitter or sour—sweet oranges arrived later, in the mid-fifteenth century).
Vestiges of this salad still exist in Spain, like the remojón de naranja in Andalucía, typically made with oranges, salt cod, onions, eggs and olives.
While part of me craves slow-cooked roasts and stews in this inward-looking season, this salad with deep roots reminds me of the vitality fall has to offer.
Orange, pomegranate and salt cod salad
- 115–170 g (4–6 oz.) salt cod, preferably a thick loin piece
- Arils of 1 pomegranate (see Notes)
- 100 ml (scant ½ cup) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 100 ml (scant ½ cup) freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 whole oranges (use 1 blood orange for even more contrast, if you like)
- 1 sweet onion, very thinly sliced
- Black olives
- Yolk of 1 hard-boiled egg (see Notes)
- A little orange flower water, placed in a small spray bottle
One to two days ahead
- Start desalting the cod: Rinse it under running water, then place it in a bowl and cover it with cool water. Soak the fish, covered and refrigerated, for 24 to 48 hours, changing the water every 8 to 12 hours.
- After 12 hours, break off a small piece of cod and taste it. When the fish tastes well-seasoned to you (neither too salty nor bland), drain and rinse it. It’s best to use the cod right away, but if needed, store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a couple of days.
The day you plan to serve the salad
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the desalted cod, immersing it completely. Let it cook for about 3 minutes, until it flakes easily with a fork. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Let cool completely, then gently flake it apart.
- To make the dressing, place half of the pomegranate arils in a blender with the olive oil and orange juice. Blend until emulsified, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
- Peel the orange and remove all the white pith. Cut the fruit crosswise into thin slices.
- Arrange the salad in a serving dish for the center of the table. Fill the base of the dish with dressing; pour the remaining dressing into a sauceboat to serve on the side.
- Arrange the orange slices over the dressing, followed by the cod, onions and olives (this part is so soothing to me!). Finely grate the egg yolk over the salad, then sprinkle with the remaining pomegranate arils. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
- I find that the salt cod and olives add enough salt, but try a bite with all of the ingredients together to see if more salt is needed.
- Right before serving, spritz the salad lightly with orange flower water—a little goes a long way.
- Do you have a favorite method for removing pomegranate arils? I find it’s messy no matter what…I use my husband’s method—I cut the pomegranate in half crosswise, hold it upside-down over a large bowl, and bang on the outside with a pestle until the arils fall into the bowl.
- The recipe only calls for the yolk, perhaps so that the yellow color (a “symbol of gaiety for medieval Arabs,” according to Clifford Wright) stands out, but I’ve also finely grated the whole egg over the salad and like that, too.