Several years ago, while lunching with Michael at an area restaurant, I discovered marinated white anchovies or boquerones en vinagre (fresh anchovy fillets marinated in vinegar and olive oil). The pristine fish fillets arrived unannounced as a garnish on an overworked and heavy handed salad nicoise. I ravaged them with abandon, dangling the slightly pickled darlings over my tongue before slurping them down like wet ramen noodles. The slippery-skinned and mild tasting unsalted fish changed the anchovy game.
To this day, when I'm lucky enough to run across them, I order white anchovies straight up. No salad needed. On really fabulous days, Michael brings them home. Cue the music.
Simple Flatbread with Baby Arugula, White Anchovies, and Stuff.
Me and my anchovies. A lesson in self indulgence.
I wasn't gunning to make pizza, foccacia, or true flatbread. I guess I was shooting for something like a big cracker. I sifted 2 cups of all purpose flour with a pinch of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda before adding 1/2 cup chilled water. After forming the dough into a loose ball, I kneaded it for 5 minutes, floured a large wooden board, and rolled the dough into a very thin misshapen oblong. Hell, I didn't care what it looked like. I brushed the dough with olive oil, scattered thinly sliced onions over the top,and slid it into a 400 degree oven to bake for 35 minutes. When the cracker-bread browned and the onions charred, I pulled the crust from the oven to cool.
I tossed baby arugula with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, flaked sea salt, and cracked black pepper. After covering the baked cracker with lettuce, I tumbled slivered red bell peppers and sliced kumquats into the leaves before finishing with butterflied white anchovies. Booya.
So simple. Like glammed up canned sardines on crackers (one of my father's favorite things), the unlikely combination worked. Bitter arugula. Sweet/tart kumquats. Charred onions. Cracker crust. White anchovies. Perfect.