Don’t Fear the Little Fishy

If I say let’s have sardines for lunch, will you wince? Some might, I used to when I was a kid. Unfortunately, this petite fish has been given a big bad rep; kind of like it’s cousin the anchovy. Can this “fear” be overcome? I believe, with the right recipe you will get “hooked”.

So, where to begin….. You have to start with a quality product, I didn’t say expensive- just great quality.Over the years, I’ve tried many brands of sardines; some in cans and even some in bottle jars. And like anything, they run the gamut of really good and “why did I open that?!” I have found one brand that, has great quality and is affordable- Wild Planet (www.wildplanetfoods.com). Yes, the ones that make that hearty, non-“fishy” tuna. IMG_5372

Now we have the heart of the dish, what dish do we begin with? Wild Planet offers a mini recipe book, 50 Ways to Eat a Sardine- great ideas! Want something different? I remembered the sardine dish I had when I was young that converted me to a sardine eater- it’s a Filipino dish! It’s called “Ginisang Sardinas”, loosely translated Sauteed Sardines. The ingredients are simple, besides the sardines; onion, garlic, tomato (can also use tomato sauce) and spices. And using Wild Planet’s Wild sardines in extra virgin olive oil lightly smoked.

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So we’ve sliced and diced our basics, now on to the recipe. You can use ripe tomatoes or canned tomato sauce (depends on preference or what you have on hand), a little bit of lemon juice, about a tablespoon of chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste. If you would like more of a Filipino flare, instead of salt you can use a teaspoon of fish sauce which can be found at most Oriental stores.

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The next few steps are super simple, start with sautéing the onions then the garlic. once they begin to brown you can add your tomatoes.IMG_5357

Believe it or not it’s almost done; next comes the sardines, let it simmer in the tomato sauce. Time for seasoning, salt (or the fish sauce) and pepper, and the lemon juice.IMG_5361

A sprinkle of parsley before serving, at times we’ve also added a hard boiled egg to the dish. This is served with steamed rice.

As I was looking at the sardines in a tomato sauce, I remembered that Wild Planet also has Sardines in Marinara sauce! This screams Pasta dish!!

A drizzle of olive oil, finely chopped garlic and onions in to the pan. As it starts to brown, in goes the sardines in marinara sauce.IMG_5350

Final seasoning, maybe a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and on top of some fettuccine or spaghetti and you’re good to go.

Since I was on a roll, I decided to try the other varieties of Wild Planet’s sardines. Okay, I wound up cooking five more dishes using sardines! Yup, time to call the neighbors over for a tasting! I didn’t tell them that I would be featuring sardines, only to be able to surprise them with it’s versatility and dispel the “fear” that some have with sardines.

I stumbled on a recipe that said was sure to be the best one for first time sardine eaters. It’s called “the works salad”. I once again used the sardines in extra virgin olive oil lightly smoked. With all the ingredients; sliced black olives, cilantro, shredded/grated carrots. diced dill pickles, chopped nuts, a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar and salt! because Wild Planet’s sardines are not drowning in salt! The sardines? You “mash” them before you mix them into the other ingredients. Chill before serving, can be served with crackers or on some lettuce.

What about something for appetizers? Tapenade goes well with any refreshment. Some black olives, capers and a drizzle of olive oil into the food processor creating a paste. Mix in the sardines- I used the ones in extra virgin olive oil with lemon. Don’t forget to season, I put a sprinkle of garlic powder.

I wanted to try something really different with the sardines in water with sea salt. But what? How about a four ingredient salad for lunch? Here goes; a few hard boiled eggs, fine diced onions, dice the sardines and a dollop of mayonnaise.

Let’s do something crunchy. Tempura style! IMG_5385

I used the same recipe that you usually use when frying fish. With the sardines in water no salt added, I did a pat dry first. got my flour, “scrambled” eggs and Panko in three separate bowls to begin the dredging. I do like to season the breadcrumbs or Panko as well.IMG_5391

Ok,Ok…. Just one more. Fried rice seems like a fun one to try. This may be surprising, but I’m allergic to rice. It was shocking for my family- my aunts thought it was peculiar for a Filipino to be allergic to rice when that is something that you eat all your life. I need an alternative, and I want it to be an easy assembly.

Any Trader Joe’s fans out there? I love their cauliflower stir fry, you can find it in their frozen sectionIMG_5387

I prepared the cauliflower fried rice as per the package, and added the sardines in water with sea salt. A little bit of fine diced onions and garlic, I used a small sprinkle of soy sauce to taste instead of salt. And it was done in a flash!!

All the dishes are cooked and plated, time to set the table and call everyone over.IMG_E5395

Thank you Wild Planet for cute coloring books I can share with the kids!IMG_5415

A smidgen of everything on the plate.

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Let the tasting begin! What fun! We’ve conquered the fear of sardines! Even the kids liked it!! IMG_5398

It was so generous of Wild Planet to send some coupons to share with everyone!

I love that you can find Wild Planet Foods in the stores I frequent.

P.S. I heard some Costcos carry them too.

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