Seasonal Chef: Taking Another Look at Sardines

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One recent afternoon my husband and I were discussing what kind of fish I was going to make for dinner and he casually mentioned that he really liked sardines. This bit of information came as a great surprise to me. In the 13+ years we’ve been together he has never once mentioned sardines. Apparently this is something he ate as a young man and quite enjoys. Who knew? Truth be told I have never been a huge fan of sardines. They are small and have a lot of tiny bones. It always seemed like too much work for the small amount of food you get in the end. That said, in my quest for always taking another look at less than popular ingredient, I decided to take another look at sardines. Testing the waters, so to speak, on my Facebook page, nearly 80% of my friends commenting said they loved them and shared their favorite preparation. Many simply said to toss them on a hot grill to get a little char and a little fresh lemon and olive oil. Simple and straightforward. I had hoped to do that this week, unfortunately I was not able to get them fresh. The next best thing is canned, but make sure you read the labels! They come packed in a variety of options. I chose the boneless and skinless sardines from Season and made life very easy.

I heard rumors sardines were good for you, and tiny bones aside, quite delicious. Did you know that a single serving of sardines has close to 23 grams of protein and is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids? They are also high in calcium, iron and potassium, and low in calories. The canned variety does have sodium, to help in preservation, but low for a canned product. I chose the variety that are packed in olive oil. Sardines contain low amounts of mercury and toxins that are found in longer-living fish such as salmon and tuna, and thus makes them a good choice for children and pregnant women. They are sustainably fished and affordable. So with all that going for this tiny silver fish, what could I do to “dress them up?”

Fresh Tomato Pasta

Based on the comments I got from many friends I decided to go easy on time, and big on flavor. At a recent visit to Tarry Market I picket up a nice ball of freshly made tomato pasta. I decided that would be the anchor for my sardine dish.

P1010482

Along with pasta I made a very simple tomato sauce with ripe cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic and crushed red pepper.

Canned sardines.

After a quick drain of my sardines

Seasonal Chef Sardine and Pasta dish.

I tossed it all together for one really delicious dinner.

Garlicky breadcrumbs.

Just for the heck of it I decided it might be interesting to add a little garlicky crunch, so I took a chunk of sourdough bread I had left over, pulsed it in my food processor and then toasted it with some olive oil and garlic. You can easily use panko bread crumbs, or even pick up a bag from Tarry Market if you head there for the pasta. Either way, it’s a nice addition to have on top. If you really want to live on the edge sprinkle this with a little parmesan cheese. To those purists, like myself, who never add cheese to a seafood dish, this one will hold up to the cheese. The sardine has a great depth of flavor and will shine all the way through.

Sardines with Spicy Tomato Pasta, Maria Reina, Seasonal Chef Recipe

So if you’ve been a little reluctant to give this tiny fish a try, why not do it now? Sardines are so good for you and so delicious.

Buon appetito!

Sardines with Spicy Tomato Pasta

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

This quick pasta dinner starring sardines will be done in a snap, for a quick mid-week dinner.

Ingredients

  • 2 - 3.5-4 oz cans boneless, skinless sardines
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 cup onion, 1/4" dice
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 lb fresh tomato pasta
  • 1/2 cup of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Parmesan cheese, optional

Instructions

  1. Drain the sardines, gently breaking in small pieces, and set aside.
  2. In a 13" skillet toast the breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove and place in a bowl to cool.
  3. In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a big pinch of crushed red pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes until golden brown Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes until they are soft.
  4. Meanwhile put a small pot of salted water on to boil and add the pasta. Cook for 3 minutes. Using tongs or a spider ladle remove from water and add to the tomato sauce along with 1 cup of the water. Continue to cook the pasta for 3 more minutes in the sauce tossing gently.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the parsley and lemon zest tossing well.
  6. Add the sardines, a little parmesan cheese if desired. Taste for seasoning.
  7. Toss gently and serve right away.
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Sardines with Spicy Tomato Pasta

4 Servings

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 – 3.5-4 oz cans boneless, skinless sardines
1 cup bread crumbs
Olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1 cup onion, 1/4″ dice
Crushed red pepper 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 lb fresh tomato pasta
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Parmesan cheese, optional

Instructions

  1. Drain the sardines, gently breaking in large pieces,  and set aside.
  2. In a 13″ skillet toast the breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove and place in a bowl to cool.
  3. In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a big pinch of crushed red pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes until golden brown Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes until they are soft.
  4. Meanwhile put a small pot of salted water on to boil and add the pasta. Cook for 3 minutes. Using tongs or a spider ladle remove from water and add to the tomato sauce along with 1 cup of the water. Continue to cook the pasta for 3 more minutes in the sauce tossing gently.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the parsley and lemon zest tossing well.
  6. Add the sardines, a little parmesan cheese if desired. Taste for seasoning.
  7. Toss gently and serve right away.
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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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