Recipe: Sardines in Endive
Twice a month, Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, tentatively titled “Meals from the Homemade Pantry,” due out in 2015. This week, she touts the virtues of sardines and supplies an easy starter recipe for the canned-fish novice.
I never would have known what to do with my first can of sardines were it not for a kind aunt who insisted I just hadn’t lived until I’d had a real, perfectly salted sardine sandwich. She picked up fancy white bread at the bakery, slathered it with softened butter, and deftly pulled open the greasy can without splattering one drop of oil. Then she gently smashed the tiny oily fish into a rich and salty hash.
“Tuna, shmuna,” she said to me, as we each ate half of the sandwich that was, in fact, one of the most delicious things I’d eaten to date.
Since then, I’ve tried to pay it forward. I find that people often confuse sardines with anchovies, another oily and misunderstood fish, and, in both cases, one wrong preparation can turn the eater away forever. Americans just haven’t discovered the canned sardine like the French (mashed on grilled bread), the British (see delicious sandwich above), or the Italians (pasta, of course). I have a nasty habit of digging around in people’s pantries, and there is almost always an old, dusty can of sardines holding court over the other forgotten fruit vinegars and marmalades that never found their use.
It’s time to bring back the sardine. They’re incredibly nutritious, sustainably fished, inexpensive, delicious and low in mercury. But most of all, that dusty can is the basis for one of my very favorite lunches. The fish holds other flavors perfectly, so don’t skimp on the salt or lemon. Taste your sardine mash, and when it tastes so good you want to just eat the whole bowl, scoop it into your endive. This also makes a great starter for a party if you want to make it on a larger scale.
Sardines in Endive
1 can sardines in olive oil, lightly drained (if you have sardines in water, just add 1 teaspoon olive oil back into them after draining)
1 small handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
1 hefty squeeze lemon
¼ teaspoon salt (the crunchier the better), or more, to taste
1 endive, separated out into single leaves
1. Combine the sardines, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Mash with a fork, and taste. Add more lemon or salt if needed.
2. Scoop sardine mixture into endive leaves. If it’s just you, sit and devour immediately. But if you’re creating a plate for someone you’d like to impress, add a bit more lemon zest and parsley to the plate for garnish.