Posted tagged ‘sardines’

Bathing Suit Food

March 28, 2009


No one will ever see me in a bathing suit, and for that we can all be profoundly grateful.  Nonetheless, at this time of year, even those of us who would rather be beamed up handcuffed and blindfolded to a star in a cold and hostile galaxy than be caught in a maillot de bain do tend to think of eating more lightly.  Celery, green apples,


cauliflower and sardines, these fuel our springtime dreams of fitness and flattery, the eternal hope sprung manifestly onto our lunchtime plate.  Those of you that are actually suimsuit-suitable, and I’m sure you’re out there somewhere, will also appreciate these two recipes for their tangy contribution to the cause.

Here you have a celery salad, a sardine sandwich.  You can eat them for health, you can eat them for beauty, you can eat them for fun.  You can serve them together or apart, to guests or just to your own dear self.  You’ll hardly spend a penny making them, you’ll scarcely make any dirty dishes.  At the end of the meal you’re certain to be proud of all that, but what you’ll really be is well fed.  And if you insist on putting on a bathing suit before you dine,  more power to you.  Although it is only March.  There’s still time.

Crunchy Green Springtime Salad*

2 large celery stalks, leaves included, diced fine
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup pecans, broken up
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard – use mi-fort if you can get it
1 T honey
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste

Place the celery, apples, parsley, and nuts in a salad bowl.  Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss with the salad.  Season to taste. Voilà.

Earth and Sea Sandwich**

14 oz  fresh cauliflower florets
1 can sardines packed in olive oil
1 lime, zested then juiced
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup cream
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
small slices of crusty toasted bread

Cook the cauliflower in boiling, salted water until tender.  Drain.  Place the cauliflower in the food processor with the olive oil, half of the lime juice, the garlic, and half of the cream.  Whiz until it begins to smooth, then, with the machine running, slowly pour in the rest of the cream.  You may wish to use a little more or less cream, but be sure you obtain a texture that will be spreadable and not runny.  Season to taste.

Drain the sardines and shred them with a fork, stirring in the rest of the lime juice.

Spread the toasts with a layer of cauliflower cream, then spread with the sardine paste, then an additional dollop of cauliflower cream.  Sprinkle the top with bits of lime zest and some fleur de sel if you like.

*inspired by a long-ago recipe from Cooking Light
** based on this recipe

Sardine Song

March 19, 2009


Growing up, I thought sardines were weird.  Something old guys ate with raw onions, washed down by that then-vile substance, beer.  Old guys from the old country.  I never imagined sardines as a modern miracle food, a fountain of youth.  I never imagined them as beautiful.


I certainly never imagined them as objects of mass affection.  If anyone had dared to bring sardines for lunch I would have felt compelled to move away from the sandwich, relocating myself to some less pungent corner of the school cafeteria.  Sardines smelled too strong, and they had those icky little bones, which at the time I didn’t recognize as a great source of calcium.  I’d never heard of Omega-3.


I didn’t like canned food, anyway.  And I’d never seen a fresh sardine, although I grew up on the Pacific coast where once they teemed.  I didn’t think about whose hands might have carefully placed those tiny fish so neatly in their can, packed them in tight, serré comme des sardines, as you say in French to mean something that’s super-crowded. 


And I only started to think about sardine fishing when I lived on the Monterey Bay, where Cannery Row, now an infamous tourist trap, was once the heart of a thriving sardine fishery.  The sardines were all gone when I lived there, but now they’ve come back, as sardines are wont to do, about every 30 years.  Sardine time is here again.

When we came to France I discovered abundant and cheap fresh sardines, and promptly fell in love with them.   Recently, a reader asked plaintively, replying to my rhapsodic post Hooked On Sardines, if there weren’t something good to do with canned sardines.  And that’s when I realized that now I eat tons of canned sardines, because they’re absolutely delicious here.  In fact, sardines take up a considerable amount of my limited canned food space, sometimes edging out other more obvious staples like chocolate.


Here’s my currently Most Favored Sardine Concoction.  It’s a concoction as opposed to a proper recipe, because it’s different every time I make it, and each time I think it’s the best ever.

Usually I make this as a sauce for pasta, although I’ve also been known to toss it with roasted cauliflower instead, or to put in over polenta.   You’ll have to decide that for yourself, or try all three.  So to get started, here’s what you do.

Buy a can of really good sardines, packed in olive oil.  Drain the olive oil into a frying pan and add a diced onion and 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic.  Let this sizzle lightly until barely golden, then add some diced piquillo peppers, if you can get them, or dice up half a red bell pepper if you can’t.    Toss in a big handful of capers, then add a can of good tomatoes.  I like to use canned cherry tomatoes, but any high quality canned tomato will do.  Stir well and add a tablespoon of double-concentrated tomato paste.  When that’s blended in, add your sardines and crush with a fork until they begin to disappear in to the sauce.  If you’re using cherry tomatoes, try to crush those as little as possible.  Add a nice splash of red wine, enough that the sauce takes on the consistency you prefer.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes or so, add salt and pepper to taste, and if you like spicy stuff, add a dash or two of your favorite hot sauce.  And there you have it.

I’ve added Niçoise olives.  I’ve added chard.  I’ve made it without peppers, and I’ve even made it without tomatoes, although that was a desperation move in a moment of sardine craving that coincided with a brief and bleak interlude when chocolate had won the pantry space wars.


Any way you make it, if you like sardines, you’re going to love this.  And if you love sardines, you owe it to us all to share your favorite recipe here, because after all, you can’t eat sardine pasta every single day. 

Well, I definitely could, but you probably wouldn’t, and arguably one no one should.  But it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if you did.

Il n’y a pas de poison dans les poissons

September 23, 2007

There’s no poison in fish.  That  sounds so simple in English, but I remember the phrase as the first big error I made on a French test, ever so many years ago.  Never mind how many years ago.

And even today, I’m finding the whole business of French fish baffling.  These fresh sardines were pressed upon me, practically forced upon me, and for free.  The fish guy, Monsieur le poissonnier, is either taking me under his wing or trying to get me to quit shopping at his stand forever.  In his southern-accented French that I can barely follow, he insists that I need twice as much fish as I think I need.  Every time.  And the stuff is expensive too, about $14-18 a pound, just like it would be at home.  But this time, close to the end of the market, he gave me a big discount, 7 Euros per kilo of discount on loup de mer, which is about $5 a pound in discount on a really delicious fish.   And then in addition he piled this mass of sardines into a bag and made me adopt them.  What can it all mean?

For me it meant learning to clean sardines.  For me it meant thinking of Fish Head Pie, aka Stargazy Pie, where the fish heads are all pointed up toward the heavens.  My fish heads were less inspired, landing willy-nilly in Beppo’s dish.


Let me report that while Beppo enjoys raw sardine fillets, he utterly disdains fish heads.  Perhaps he would have enjoyed them in a pie, but in their natural state of decapitation, non, merci.

And then I had to do something with the sardines.  And that something turned out to be this delicious recipe for Sardines Napolitano which I chose because I had a bunch of fresh mint in the fridge. 

Here’s my translation.  Crispy fried sardine pieces marinated in a wine and vinegar reduction with lots of fresh mint, on a salad with mint, tomatoes, and a few bits of hot pepper for good measure.  Ok, that was definitely worth all the mess and soucis with the fish cleaning.  I might even pay for them next time.

You can read more about my fish head fascination right here.