Boquerones en vinagre (or marinated anchovies or smelt) are a typical Spanish tapa, a small plate of food served with an equally small beverage. Many Americans think of anchovies, smelt and sardines as smelly canned fish, but Europeans devour these good-for-you fish fresh. Because these tiny fish are lower on the food chain they contain much lower levels of mercury and environmental toxins. The big benefit is they are packed with heart-healthy omega-3s, essential fatty acids, protein and more; plus they are inexpensive. We love to fry and grill these small delicious fish, but one of our favorite preparations is to simply marinate them with peppers and tomatoes and serve them cold with a drizzle of good olive oil. Eat them as is or in bread bocadillo-style (sandwich).
Boquerones en Vinagre (Marinated Anchovies or Smelt)
Adapted from Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain by Penelope Casa
Prepare one day in advance.
3/4 pounds fresh anchovies, smelt or sardines, cleaned (head, tails, and fins removed)
Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 small tomato, finely diced
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
1/3 cup white onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Soak the cleaned fish in enough cold water to cover for one hour. Drain, then butterfly the fish, leaving the bone in. Arrange skin side up in a shallow, flat-bottomed bowl in one layer. Finely dice tomato, peppers, garlic and onion and add to bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pour on the vinegar. Cover and refrigerate overnight (the fish will not be "cook", only marinated).
Drain the fish and vegetables and discard the vinegar. Remove fish from vegetables and place on a cutting board. Pull the spine bone away and split the fish in halves, trimming away any ragged edges. Place filets on a plate, drizzle with a quality olive oil and top with the garlic vegetable mixture.
Enjoy with toasted bread and a good wine or dry sherry.