I like to call this Sardinian salad panzanella after the Tuscan bread salad of that name. In this instance, Sardinia has gone Tuscany one better by using fregola, Sardinians’ word for what we know as couscous. The bread Tuscans use in panzanella really must be good, stale, authentically compact Tuscan bread; otherwise, it doesn’t crumble as it should and the salad leaves something to be desired. Couscous, on the other hand, is available everywhere and is amazingly easy to make.
The other ingredient that makes this salad distinctive is the seafood. The flavor of seafood, which in Sardinia is remarkable, varies from one patch of sea to the next, and my choices are a free interpretation of the original components using what was available to me on the Atlantic coast. If, wherever you happen to be, different fish is available, use my ingredients list as a guide, and assemble a comparable assortment drawn from your local resources. Striped bass, which is difficult to buy by the slice even on the East Coast, can be replaced by any firm, white-fleshed fish with good flavor, such as monkfish or grouper or cod. If you have no scallops, use crabmeat or lobster or both. If you are comfortable using them, add boiled octopus tentacles, as long as they are tender. Strive for an interesting and balanced mix of textures, but stay away from strong-flavored, dark-fleshed fish and from fish with a flaky consistency, such as American sole.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.