This elegant appetizer was inspired by a dish we enjoyed at Roeland Klein’s Avenida in Portugal. A grilled sardine fillet is served on tomato concassé, surrounded by a tomato dashi. The combination of flavors is very nice. The tomatoes and sardines available here are not as good as those in Portugal, but it is still very good. Tomato dashi is a fusion component, as it is Japanese dashi that is made with ‘tomato water’. If memory serves me right, the tomato dashi at Avenida was much lighter than in my rendition, both in color and in flavor.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
4 sardine fillets
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) ripe tomatoes for the dashi
4 ripe tomatoes for the concassé
10 grams konbu (dried kelp)
20 grams katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
extra virgin olive oil
fresh parsley or cilantro
To make the tomato water, put a kilo of tomatoes in the blender…
…and puree until smooth.
Put the pureed tomatoes in a muslin or other fine cloth (an old but clean tea towel would also be fine).
Hang up the cloth with a bowl underneath to catch the tomato water. Put it in the refrigerator overnight.
By not squeezing but allowing the juice to trickle out naturally, you will obtain tomato water that is quite clear.
Put the tomato water in a saucepan and add 10 grams of konbu. Bring this almost, but not quite, to a boil, then turn off the heat just before it starts to boil, and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the konbu.
Bring the liquid almost to the boil again. When it is almost boiling, turn off the heat, and add 20 grams of katsuobushi.
Stir and allow to steep for about 10 seconds.
Strain the liquid with a fine sieve.
Taste and adjust the seasoning of the tomato dashi with salt. (You could also use a bit of Japanese soy sauce.)
Allow the tomato dashi to cool to room temperature.
To make the tomato concassé, bring a saucepan with water to a boil. Carve a cross in the skin on the bottom of 4 tomatoes. Try to carve only the skin, not deeply into the tomato.
When the water boils, turn off the heat, and add the tomatoes. Wait until the peel starts to split, about 20 to 30 seconds.
Lift the tomatoes out of the hot water as soon as the skin starts to split…
…and plunge in cold water to stop the cooking.
You can now easily peel the tomatoes. Do that, and discard the skins.
Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise, and remove the seeds with your fingers or a small spoon. Discard the seeds. (You could also use the seeds for the tomato water, but I would recommend to prepare the concassé briefly before serving the dish rather than the day before).
Cut the green part where the stem was attached out of each tomato, and discard.
Dice the tomato flesh. The concassé de tomates is now ready to be used. Do not refrigerate, or allow to come to room temperature before serving.
Put some fresh parsley or cilantro in the container of a blender together with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Blend until smooth.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing down with a spoon to obtain a green oil.
Salt the sardine fillets at least half an hour before grilling, and refrigerate them.
Preheat the broiler in your oven, or (even better) build a charcoal fire. Brush both sides of the sardines with olive oil.
Broil or grill the sardines on one side only with the skin side towards the heat source, just until the skin shows some brown spots. This will only take a few minutes; do not overcook the sardines.
Arrange the concassé on deep plates in ‘islands’ in the shape of the sardine fillets. Pour the tomato dashi around the islands. Place a sardine fillet on the top of each island. Pour some drops of the green oil on top of the dashi. You may wish to pour the oil at the tableside, as the drops tend to clot together as you carry the plates to the table.
We enjoyed this with a white blend of Arinto and Antão Vaz from Alentejo, the Cartuxa Branco to be exact. The minerality and fruitiness of the wine are a great pairing with the smokiness and fruitiness of the tomato dashi.
Today’s flash back is another vacation memory, but this one of our trip to the Amalfi Coast two years ago: Scialatielli ai frutti di mare. Scialatielli is fresh pasta made from semolina flour and water, and shaped as long rectangles, and typical to this part of Campania.