Baccala with Vinegar Peppers

Every Italian remembers a time when the word " baccala " was enough to make him run for cover. Baccala is a dried salted codfish. Most homes had one or two hanging from a string in the pantry. They are stiff as a board and have sharp edges. They were often used as a threat towards unruly kids. Mother would make a gesture with her hand that resembled a karate chop and shout " baccala! " If she ever followed through, the kid would most likely be decapitated. When the kids got older they realized there was little chance of being struck since the cod was too valuable to risk damaging it. Baccala is traditional at Christmas Eve and during lent. Baccala is readily available in most large supermarkets. It seems that it has become trendy. You do not have to drive to the nearest large city and visit the Italian Market section to buy it.

This recipe should be made about 24 hours in advance to enhance the flavors.

2 pounds dried salt cod (baccala)
6 large vinegar peppers (two red) and at least one should be hot (optional)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 large garlic cloves,
1/2 cup pitted
black oil cured olives
chopped Chopped fresh parsley

1.Soak the salt cod in enough cold water to cover for 24 to 36 hours. Change the water at least six times to remove the salt. Keep refrigerated. When you are ready to cook, drain and rinse well in cold water.
2.Put the fish in a large pot and cover with water. Gently boil on medium heat until the fish is tender. (The fish should not become so soft that it breaks apart in the water.) Rinse under cold running water and drain well.
3.With your fingers, tear the fish into bite-size pieces. Spread them attractively on a large serving platter. Tear the vinegar peppers over the fish, letting the juices fall on the cod.
4.Sprinkle the cod and the peppers with a drizzle of olive oil. Use salt only if it is needed, and pepper. Sprinkle the cod and peppers with the chopped garlic, chopped parsley and black-pitted olives. Gently lift the fish with a spatula to let the other ingredients fall through so everything marinates evenly. Do this several times before serving but try not to disturb the arrangement.
5.Refrigerate, covered, for at least a few hours.
6.Serve with crusty bread and red wine as an appetizer