I suppose there are people who cannot stomach the idea of sardines in any form, much less the ones out of a can. (If you qualify, I guess you can skip this post!) But it’s a pity, because these lovely little fishes are so tasty — and so good for you! And here’s an easy summer salad that makes good use of them.
I highly recommend sourcing a good quality version on sardines packed in olive oil — like these from Bela. Very lightly smoked, they taste fresh and light. (Honestly, I could just as easily eat these on a saltine cracker with a little butter — like my grandmother used to do!) I found these at my local Whole Foods, by the way.
The salad is deceptively complex, with an array of flavor and texture contrasts that add-up to something really delicious. Endive, butter lettuce, slices of tender potato, earthy toasty pine nuts, and a lemony dressing. And of course, the sardines. I adapted the recipe from an old Wine Spectator magazine (July 11, 1999), playing with the proportions and adding the sardines. Add a crisp white wine, some crusty bread and good quality butter, and you have a perfect lunch or light supper.
Pairing: Aveleda 2013 Quinta da Aveleda Minho
Here’s an outstanding value (just $8!) on a tasty summer sipper from Portugal. A blend of Loureiro and Alvarinho, it offers a lemony freshness, pretty floral aromas, and a crisp refreshing finish. Loved it. Find it!
Recipe: Sardine & Potato Salad with Pine Nuts
Serves 2 as a main course salad
4 Tablespoons pine nuts
3/4 pound small Yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 head Belgian endive
1 small head green butter lettuce
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tin good quality sardines packed in olive oil
kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Lemon wedges and fleur de sel for serving
Scrub the potatoes and place into a large pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook potatoes until just done. You’re going to try to slice them later, so you don’t want them completely falling apart. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.
While potatoes are cooling, lightly toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over low heat. These can burn quickly, so keep an eye on them. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Wash endive, trimmed and outer leaves discarded. Then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Add to dressing and toss. Set aside.
Thinly slice still-warm potatoes. Add to endive and dressing and toss very gently. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Wash and spin-dry the butter lettuce. Divide leaves onto two dinner plates. Top with warm potato mixture. Top each plate with half the sardines. Sprinkle each plate with half the pine nuts and half the parsley.
Serve alongside warm crusty bread and good butter. You might need additional seasoning, depending on the saltiness of your sardines — so pass a little pot of fleur de sel or other finishing salt at the table, along with the lemon wedges.