In a non-stick pan, heat the milk with the salt cod cut into pieces and the potatoes (peeled, washed and chopped up). Cook slowly over a very low heat, being very careful that the cod doesn't stick to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to move it frequently, especially in the bottom of the pan. When the fish has absorbed all of the milk and has completely disintegrated, drain it well and whisk it together with the olive oil – pouring it in a little at a time – in a bowl. Continue until you obtain a smooth mixture, then stir in the finely chopped pine nuts, basil and garlic. Whisk it a little bit more, if necessary adding another drop of milk to make it softer. Don’t use salt (salt cod is “deceptive”); when the dish is ready, taste it and, if it seems bland, you can add a little. This thick, creamy salt cod paste is very similar to a Venetian dish, “baccalà mantecato”, a delicious appetizer that is very popular in Venice. This version with pine nuts and basil is tastier and not as heavy. The Venetian salt cod is almost always prepared with the addition of single cream. Serve it accompanied by crostini of toasted bread or grilled polenta.
- If you are unable to find ready-prepared salt cod and therefore buy it still salted, you need to soak it in a bowl of cold water for a couple of days. Change the water three or four times per day: on the third day it’ll be ready for cooking!