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Pea & Fennel Toasts with Sardines
“Elevate simple toast with a green, veggie-loaded spread packed with mint, fennel and sweet English peas. One of these generously topped bruschetta-like toasts makes a great appetizer; two of them are perfect as a light lunch with a salad. Canned sardines and anchovies are delicious here, as are grilled fresh sardines if you can find them.”
2 cups fresh shelled English peas (from about 2 pounds unshelled) or frozen
1 cup fennel fronds
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup packed fresh mint
1 stalk green garlic (see Tips), chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
6½-inch-thick slices pain au levain or whole-wheat country bread, cut in half
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 teaspoons, divided
1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
Pinch each of kosher salt & pepper
12 sardines and/or anchovies
¼ cup fresh mint, cut into pieces or torn
1To prepare puree: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water near the stove. Cook peas in the boiling water until tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the ice bath until cold, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the ice, then drain the peas in a colander. Let them stand until well drained, shaking the colander a few times, about 2 minutes.
2Transfer the peas to a food processor and add fennel fronds, ½ cup each oil and mint, green garlic, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Puree until slightly chunky, scraping down the sides once or twice.
3To prepare toasts: Position a rack in top third of oven; preheat broiler to high.
4Place bread on a baking sheet and brush both sides with 1 tablespoon oil. Broil until browned and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Let cool for 5 minutes.
5Juice 1 lemon. Toss fennel with the juice, the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and salt and pepper. Spread 2 tablespoons of the pea puree on each toast. Divide the fennel among the toasts, lightly pressing it into the puree. Top each with a sardine (or anchovy). Top with mint. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges and serve with the toasts.
Tips: Green garlic, aka spring, new or young garlic, is garlic that hasn't fully matured. Look for bunches with long white or purple bases, intact roots and dark green leaves. Prep like a leek and use to give both a mild garlic and an onion flavor to salads, sauces, soups and pastas.
To make ahead: Refrigerate pea puree (Steps 1-2) for up to 1 day.