Sardines are a great little fish. Well, to be honest, the term sardine kinda encompasses around 20 different small fish species. These little devils are really oily, and generally pretty strong tasting. You would see quite a lot of sardines back in Europe, where simple preparations really made them shine. In England we would often have sardines on toast for lunch, or a simple appetizer. The texture differences through the fish are pretty great too. Done right, you have a good crisp skin, with delicate flesh. Sardines are also riddled with little pin bones that you just crunch (you would have to be pretty insane to try and remove them all). When the fish is filleted, before it is cooked, you can remove quite a few of the bones though, which can be a good thing.
The little chaps can be a little hard to find, but here in Seattle a few places have them. Mutual Fish often carries them, as too does Uwajimaya (a good place for a lot of different seafood, and one of the few places in Seattle that you can buy shrimp with the heads on). Even Whole Foods often stock the little guys.
So how did I prepare them here? Well, in my book Sardines are best either pan seared really hot, or grilled over a good high heat. For this recipe I pan seared these chaps in a little olive oil and salt. The great thing is that they cook in just a few minutes. I then remove them from the pan, drissle with a good fruity olive oil, and sprinkle with a good sea salt. The toast is just ciabatta that has been brushed with olive oil, and lightly toasted. Stack up the fish on the toast, a little fresh parsley, and some more olive oil if you wish.
On to the beets. I wish I could post the recipe for these here, but that would be bad. This one comes from Holly Smith, of Cafe Juanita. There was a great article on her, her food, and her little lad in this months Gourmet magazine. I haven’t really mentioned her on my blog, but if you ever are on the eastside, and need a decent place to eat, this is honestly my top pick. Her food is amazing. Clean food, simple ingredients, no crazy preperations. All very Italian, Northern Italian to be exact. The beets are mixed with some shallots, chives and sherry vinegar, and these sat on top some almond butter. To leave you guessing how to make the almond butter (again from Gourmet mag’s write up on Holly) I will tell you that no butter is used. Obviously the beets and the butter were just fantastic.
So there we are, a simple dinner. Given the strength of the sardines this is actually pretty robust, and certainly a decent meal for the autumn.