1 pound dried salt cod
1/2 cup to 1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup 1/4-inch-diced onions
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 jalapeño, minced and seeded (if the jalapeño is mild, leave the seeds in)
2 ounces grappa or dry white wine
2 cups tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
Bouquet garni: parsley stems, thyme, marjoram, fennel fronds, and a bay leaf, tied in cheesecloth
1 cup 1/2-inch-diced bell pepper
1/2 cup pitted Niçoise olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
Fruity extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Sea-salt crystals and freshly ground black pepper
Place the dried cod in a bowl, cover with cold water, and soak for at least 48 hours, changing the water every 12 hours. Remove the cod from the water, pat dry with paper towels, and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a Teflon sauté pan, add the cod in small batches, and sauté until lightly browned; set aside and repeat with remaining cod. (If the cod is too wet, it will not brown.)
Warm 4 tablespoons oil in a 2-quart casserole; add the onions, garlic, and jalapeño; and cook gently without allowing them to color. Pour in the grappa, and reduce until the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the browned salt cod and bouquet garni, cover the casserole, and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Fold in the peppers, olives, and capers, and return to a simmer for an additional 15 minutes. The stew should be juicy; if it becomes dry, add a little water or stock. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with the fruity olive oil, and sprinkle with plenty of black pepper and a few coarse sea-salt crystals. Serve with grilled or crusty fresh bread.