I ONCE WATCHED A FOREIGN TOURIST ARGUE WITH A LOCAL WOMAN THAT THE PRIORAT WAS A GOOD PLACE TO GET FRESH SEAFOOD AND THAT HE HAD EATEN IT THERE IN THE PAST. THE LOCAL WOMAN, WHO SPOKE VERY GOOD ENGLISH, VERY POLITELY EXPLAINED TO HIM THAT ALTHOUGH THE PRIORAT IS ONLY A SHORT DISTANCE FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN, FRESH FISH WAS NOT TRADITIONAL AND PERHAPS HE MAY HAVE BEEN MISTAKEN AND WAS INSTEAD REFERRING TO BACALAO (SALT COD), FOR WHICH THE REGION IS FAMOUS. OR HAD HE MISTAKEN PRIORAT FOR THE COASTAL CITY OF TARRAGONA? SHE LATER EXPLAINED TO ME THAT TOURISTS, NOT JUST AT PRIORAT BUT ACROSS SPAIN, BROUGHT WITH THEM UNREASONABLE EXPECTATIONS AND FALSE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT FOOD. SHE WISHED PEOPLE WOULD SIMPLY ACCEPT A REGION’S LOCAL FOOD FOR WHAT IT IS — A SENTIMENT THAT IS COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE. THIS SAMFAINA IS A CLASSIC CATALAN SAUCE CLOSELY RELATED TO THE FRENCH RATATOUILLE.
Drain the salt cod, then trim off any fins and dark or brown flesh. Run your hands along the flesh and cut out the bones as you find them. Cut the fish into six equal portions.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat and cook the eggplant for 5 minutes, or until golden and tender, turning regularly. Drain on paper towel, then add the eggplant to the tomato mixture, mix gently and season to taste. You now have samfaina!
Preheat the grill (broiler) to high. Place the salt cod pieces on a lightly oiled baking tray and grill for 4 minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through. Divide the warm samfaina among six warm plates and place one piece of salt cod on top. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve.
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