Anchovies are seemingly ubiquitous in world cuisine. They appear in fish sauce, in Worcestershire sauce, in remoulade, on pizza. But primarily, they are the mainstay of the Mediterranean. Anchovy filets are melted into olive oil to dress greens and vegetables and pasta. They are the not-so-secret ingredient in pissaladiere, anchoïade, and Salade Niçoise, and a somewhat secret ingredient in tapenade. According to Wikipedia, ancient Romans used to consume the little fish raw as an ancient-day aphrodisiac equivalent to oysters, and they have long been prized for their pungency after preservation.
Typically, anchovies are packed in salt, or canned in oil, or sold as paste. To temper that distinctive salinity, anchovy filets can be soaked in milk, and eaten without much trepidation.
This dish is an homage to the anchovy's Mediterranean home. Filets of halibut are poached in olive oil, then topped with a chunky and deconstructed tapenade, in which the olives, anchovies, and capers remain close to whole—an exposé of the secret ingredient that distinguishes tapenade from the simpler olivade.
- 2 1/3 to 1/2 pound skinless halibut fillets
- 1 cup olive oil
- 20 Picholine olives, halved
- 20 Niçoise olives, halved
- 2 teaspoons capers
- 5 quartered caper berries
- 5 quartered anchovies
- Zest of 1/4 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence
- 6 leaves blue basil, quartered
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Place the halibut in a baking dish small enough so that when you pour the oil over the fish, it covers it.
Bake the fish for 45 to 50 minutes, or just until it flakes.
Meanwhile, combine all the other ingredients in a bowl. When the fish is ready, stir 1/4 cup of the cooking oil into the "tapenade." Spoon over the fish.