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Appetizers, Fish and Shellfish

Pickled sardines on toast with artichoke puree, tomato and black olive

Pickled sardines on toast with artichoke puree, tomato and black olive
Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Good things come in small packages. Sardines and mackerel are proof of this adage. These are fish for the converted, fish for people who truly enjoy the flavor of fish. My first experience with fish of this sort came on ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus 3 to 4 hours roasting time for the tomatoes | Makes 2 dozen canapés

Roasted tomatoes

  • 3 tomatoes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 peeled, halved cloves garlic
  • 6 branches thyme
  • 3 bay leaves, halved
  • Salt and freshly milled white pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Step 1Heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Step 2Prepare the tomatoes: Score the skin at the base of each tomato with an X. Place the tomatoes in simmering water just until the skin starts to pull away at the base, about 30 seconds. Immediately remove the tomatoes and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. When the tomatoes are cooled, peel the skins and halve the tomatoes crosswise (across the equator), then de-seed.

Step 3Choose a pan in which the tomatoes will fit in a single layer. Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of olive oil, and place the tomatoes in the pan cut-side down. Place a half clove of garlic on each tomato half, along with a branch of thyme and half of a bay leaf. Season the tomatoes with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, then drizzle a little more olive oil over the tomatoes.

Step 4Place the tomatoes in the oven and cook for 3 to 4 hours. Baste the tomatoes with the olive oil every hour. The tomatoes will dry and intensify while in the oven.

Step 5When the tomatoes are done, remove them from the oil and place them on a plate, then put them in the refrigerator to cool.

Step 6When the tomatoes are cool, place them on a cutting board and finely chop them with a sharp knife. Place the tomatoes in a mixing bowl, and taste them for seasoning. Season with lemon zest and more salt and pepper if needed.

Pickled sardines

  • 6 large sardines
  • Fine sea salt
  • Brown rice vinegar

Step 1Rinse and scale the sardines, then eviscerate and fillet the fish. Sardines have lots of little bones; remove as many bones as you can from each fillet. The more you are able to remove, the more enjoyable they are. When sardines are cooked, this is less important than in a recipe like this, in which they're pickled.

Step 2After the fish are filleted, season both sides with a generous sprinkling of sea salt and set aside on a plate. After 5 minutes, rinse the salt from the fillets with gently running cold tap water. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Place the fish, skin-side down, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Lightly drizzle the fillets with the rice vinegar, then place the sardines in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the components.

Artichoke puree

  • 3 large artichokes
  • 1/2 lemon, used to make an acidulated water bath
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves peeled whole garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 branch thyme
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt
  • 1 cup white wine

Step 1Prepare the artichokes: Hold an artichoke in one hand with the stem facing toward you and the tip facing away. Peel or trim away the tough outer leaves. Keep peeling or trimming until you've cut away all of the leaves down to the heart and choke. Dip the artichoke into the acidulated water as needed to keep the cut surfaces from discoloring. With a paring knife, trim away the tip of the stem, then peel the stem and base of the artichoke, going from the tip to where the base meets the leaves. When you're done, there should be no dark green tough spots left, only pale green and ivory. Remove the hairy choke in the center of the heart (a serrated grapefruit spoon is easiest; a teaspoon will work too). Cut each half into four pieces and place the pieces in the acidulated water. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Step 2Heat a stainless steel saucepan over medium heat with half the olive oil. Add the garlic, bay leaf and thyme. When they begin to sizzle, add the carrot and the drained artichokes. Stir the pan to coat all of the ingredients with the olive oil. Add a generous pinch of sea salt. Add the white wine, and cover the pan with a lid. Reduce the heat, and gently simmer the artichokes until they are tender, 15 to 20 minutes . Remove the herbs and the garlic and drain the artichokes, saving the liquid.

Step 3Place the artichokes in a blender along with the carrot. Purée the artichokes at high speed. Add the remaining olive oil. Add as much of the drained cooking liquid back into the purée as you need in order to make the purée smooth and luxurious. Season the purée with salt, then cover and refrigerate until needed.

Sardine canapes

  • 24 baguette slices
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pickled sardines
  • Artichoke purée
  • Roasted tomatoes
  • 24 slices kalamata olive
  • 24 tiny basil leaves

Step 1Grill the baguette slices: Lightly brush the baguette slices with oil and place over a hot grill to toast. Grill the slices on both sides.

Step 2Score the fillets of the sardines by making cuts into the fillets at opposing angles in a crosshatch design to make the skins tender when eaten. Cut each fillet into two equal pieces.

Step 3Smear the toasted baguette croutons with a bit of the artichoke purée. Place a piece of sardine on each crouton. Season the fish with a pinch of sea salt. Place a tiny dollop of tomato on top of each crouton. Place a slice of olive on top of the tomato. Garnish each canapé with a tiny leaf of basil. Squeeze a drop or two of lemon juice onto each canapé, and serve immediately.

Note: These canapés are great to serve at a cocktail party. For a more substantial dish serve these canapés along with a salad of frisee and arugula with chopped vine-ripe tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and sweet onions, all dressed with a simple red wine vinaigrette.


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