Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta

I’ve talked about sardines on this blog before (and again), even though I imagine you all are giving me funny looks.  So much talking, in fact, that I recently got some free samples from BELA, a local company that sources Portuguese sardines for the U.S. market.  Besides your standard olive-oil-packed sardines, they also have lemon, tomato, and hot pepper packed fish.  (All of which I love, of course).  The canned filets are plump, meaty, and flavorful–both lightly smoked and briny.

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta (1 of 5)

Sardines are my favorite “fast food,” and I’ve admitted before that I’ll open up a can and eat them with toasted crusty bread as a meal when I’m too busy to do more.  But with not much more effort, and thanks to inspiration from the lovely Argentinian food blog Momentos Gastronomicos, I’ve recently bumped it up a notch.  I made a few modifications to Rocio’s recipe, making it a bit more pantry friendly:  using BELA’s tomato-packed sardines in lieu of fresh tomatoes.

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta (3 of 5)

I admit, this is not a low-fat recipe, but it’s one that is chock-full of all those good fats we’re supposed to be eating–omega-3’s in the sardines, healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado, and of course the elixir of the gods, olive oil.  But I just like it because of how it tastes.

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta (5 of 5)

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta
Author: adapted from Rocio at [url href=”http://momentosgastronomicos.com”%5DMomentos Gastronomicos[/url]
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • Two slices of artisan bread
  • several garlic cloves (depending on size)
  • olive oil
  • one avocado
  • one small red onion (you will not need the whole onion)
  • one can BELA sardines packed in tomato sauce
  • olives (kalamata-style or oil packed)
Instructions
  1. Rub each slice of bread with a cut garlic clove. Toast under the broiler until lightly browned, remove from the oven, and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  2. Meanwhile, cut your avocado in half, remove it from its skin, and slice cross-wise into semi-circles. Do the same with your onion (slicing into thin half-circles).
  3. Arrange the canned sardines evenly over both slices of bread, then alternately layer on the avocado and onion. Top with a few olives, serve immediately, and enjoy.

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta (4 of 5)

Sardine and Fennel Pasta

This post was originally published on Honest Cooking.

I know this is going to be a hard sell, but bear with me.  Might I suggest, the next time you are in the store, not to breeze by the canned sardines? Now, before you wrinkle your nose (and if you are wondering, yes I did develop a taste for these when I was pregnant), let me point out the following, for your consideration:

As a fatty fish, sardines are high in omega-3s, calcium (don’t buy them de-boned, as unlike many fish you can eat the bones)  and are one of the only food sources of vitamin D.  (Don’t be turned off by the words “fatty” here–it’s a good thing!).  Furthermore, as a small fish, low on the food chain, sardines are generally low in mercury.  And because they are small fish that reproduce rapidly, sardines are sustainable.

It’s the trifecta! 

But wait, folks, there’s more:  they are, in stark contrast to most of your pescatarian options, cheap

Have I persuaded you? 

Now, I’m perfectly content to pop open a can and eat on a slice of toasted bread when I’m too busy/tired/lazy to cook.  (Just ask me about what I ate for dinner last night).  But I’ll up the ante and provide you with a more elegant way to enjoy these.

Sardines and fennel are a classic combination in Sicilian cooking:  a delicious, if possibly unexpected, pairing.  The two flavors work well together:  the clean, almost licorice flavor of the fennel brightens the fatty fish, and throwing in a few fennel seeds just enhances this combination.   While you might ideally use fresh sardines, I’ve modified the recipe to use the more readily available, canned variety.  This results in a recipe that is very pantry-friendly (especially if using fennel bulbs).

You can use one or two cans of sardines as you prefer (I probably don’t need to tell you my preference).  I order my sardines in bulk from Vital Choice , whose cans are packed full of meaty fillets, but you can of course grab them at the grocery store.

Sardine and Fennel Pasta

  • 1/4c (60mL) olive oil
  • 1 small onion or several shallots
  • 2 c fennel tops (approximately 3 ounces/ 80g) or chopped fennel bulbs (approximately 6 ounces/170g) or a combination; approximately 1-2 bulbs, exact measurements are not critical.
  • 1 28 oz (800g) can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 t fennel seed
  • 2 cans (about 8 ounces or 225g) of bone-in sardines, packed in olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1lb (500g) penne or other pasta

Put a pot of water to boil for the pasta.  Heat the olive oil until shimmering in the pan. Finely chop the onions and saute until the begin to soften. If using fennel bulbs, chop fine and add with the onions. When the onions are soft, roughly chop the fennel fronds (if using) and add to the pan and cook until they brighten in color. Drain the tomatoes and roughly chop. Add to the pan along with the fennel seed. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the sardines and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste but be careful as canned sardines are briney already.

Meanwhile cook the pasta and drain. Stir in the sauce and serve.

A few additional thoughts:

If you can find fresh fennel with full leafy tops still attached, you can use the fronds and the thinner stalks for this recipe, and use the bulbs for something else. Otherwise, use the bulbs and chop them fine. 

I’ve deliberately kept this simple, but you can make this even more traditionally Sicilian in any of the following ways:
–Add a few anchovies and cook for 30 seconds just before adding the tomatoes.
–Add saffron or currants soaked in hot water along with the fennel seed and tomatoes.
–Add toasted pine nuts or fried bread crumbs as a garnish.

Whatever you do, eat your sardines!

Updated 08/04:  How could I forget to remind you of this recipe?  (Yes, we’ve blogged on sardines before here!)