It is surprisingly simple to transform small and sustainable fish such as anchovies, sprats and sardines into homemade tapas. The smaller non-carnivorous fish are both a healthier and more sustainable Seafood Choice. Unlike larger carnivorous fish such as Salmon or Tuna, smaller species do not accumulate the toxins of smaller prey in their bodies, and eating lower down the food chain means we deplete less of the total biomass of the sea with each bite.
In Spain, the fish typically used for tapas are Boquerones, or “white anchovies”. These can be purchased pre-cleaned and packaged at specialty shops. Preparing them yourself, though, despite the mess, results in a far more delectable dish.
So grab your knife and start by searching out an ultra-fresh local small fish variety from your local fish monger. Back at your sink, rinse them well and then make a small slit along the underside of the belly.
Now remove and discard the innards. Next, nix the entirety of the backbone, by gently edging your knife under it and sliding swiftly from the tail-end upwards.
Now remove and discard any small bones remaining and then submerge the filets in a shallow bowl of white wine vinegar.
Leave the fish submerged in vinegar overnight in your refrigerator. The marination will also soften any tiny bones you may have missed. Changing the vinegar once during the night is a nice touch, but is not absolutely necessary.
The following morning pour off the vinegar and immerse the fish in a mason jar filled with good quality olive oil, sliced garlic, a handful of finely minced parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Store the oil-submerged fish in your refrigerator to keep for several days if necessary.
When you are ready to serve the tapas you should top them off with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of (smoked) salt, and a final drizzle of olive oil. Serve alongside thick wedges of rustic country bread topped with fresh butter, fresh-picked radishes, cherry tomatoes, cold roasted fingerling potatoes, whole roasted garlic cloves, chunks of fresh sheep’s milk cheese, lots of olives, and plenty of pickled onions.