A Roundabout Route to Baccalà Mantecato

My local Vallarta Mexican grocery store never ceases to surprise and amaze me.

First of all, it’s just darned cool to have a market that actually feels — smells, sounds, visuals — like you are in Mexico. And in that regard, I have yet to need a Mexican cooking ingredient that I can’t find there.

Secondly, I find countless ingredients I need for other cuisines — the fine tripe they have, for example, that I need (yes, need) for trippa alla Romana, and a dazzling variety of fresh herbs.

Newfoundland salt cod illustration from the 1700s

A recent happy discovery was baccalà, also known as bacalao, also known as salt cod — not something I ever associated with Mexican cooking. In the past, I’ve had to travel to a Spanish purveyor in Harbor City (a heck of a drive to non-Angelenos) or wait until I’m in San Francisco to visit North Beach’s famous deli, Molinari, to get some. Not only does Vallarta have beautiful European baccala, but it’s considerably less expensive than at either of those other places. More

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Little Silver Fishies

Sardines are not a fence sitter’s fish. Like anchovies, people tend to either love them or hate them. But in the hater’s camp, I usually find folks who have only encountered small tins of the tightly packed, long-deceased fish. And I aim to convert them with the revelation that is a fresh sardine.

Most people have never seen a fresh sardine, with its sleek profile and pearlescent silver and blue skin. A favorite food of large baleen whales, sardines are one of the most abundant fish in the sea, swimming in massive shoals numbering in the millions. More