Avocados have been available to cooks in the Mediterranean since the sixteenth century, when Cortès brought them back from the New World. It was in Catalonia where I first tasted this simple dish, a combination or silky, paper-thin slices of ripe avocado and marinated fat strips of salty sardine fillets topped with crisp strings of scallions and chives, which makes for a great textural contrast — easy to duplicate and hard to forget.
The combination is based on a dish from the Canary Islands, but the brilliant execution is the work of the legendary master chef Ferran Adrià, famous for his culinary innovations, which include the use of foams, gelatinized liquid and savory lollipops.—Paula Wolfert
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 scant tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Two (4 1/2 ounces) cans Portuguese whole sardines packed in olive oil
1 large firm, ripe Hass avocado
4 to 6 day-old, thin slices of country-style bread
4 scallions (white part only), cut lengthwise into thin strips about 1 inch long
1. Make a parsley vinaigrette by whisking together the olive oil with the parsley and vinegar in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Drain the sardines, divide into fillets, and soak in the vinaigrette for at least 1 hour. For easier slicing, chill the avocado in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
3. Using a mandoline or a 1mm slicing blade, carefully slice the avocado paper-thin. Remove the skin and pit as you slice.
4. Grill the bread, turning once on a grill over hot coals or under the broiler until nicely browned on both sides. Drain the sardine fillets and lightly brush the toasts with the vinaigrette.
5. Pile 3 or 4 slices of avocado onto each toast, top with a portion of the sardines, and scatter scallions and a few chives on top. Serve at once.
Recipe © 2003 Paula Wolfert. All rights reserved.