This is one of those hodge-podge dishes I invent around one ingredient I’m craving, that doesn’t appear to have a natural fit with anything else in my refrigerator. The magic: sardines. Those little oily fish are packed with nutrition, and tasty to boot! Don’t be scared to give them a chance.

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(Sidenote: It’s incredible that I can crave, let alone, flaunt my affinity for sardines. In elementary school, mamma packed mashed sardine and lemon juice sandwiches in my lunchbox. This was the start of a fearful legacy of rejected lunch trades, and likely how I managed to “avoid” things like Twinkies for so long. Which of course meant there were never opportunities to savor junk. Not at home. Not at school. Not at all. Very clever Mamma).

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The Assembly

Create a bed of salad on your plate. Arrange the remaining ingredients to your fancy! I dolloped the onions in the center, and rested the sardines on the garlicky-bread. I add the sliced eggs on the side. Sprinkle your salad with freshly ground pepper for look and flavor!

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A bit about buying: I’m sort of a keen label-reader. Why not? That’s how we get any inkling of what’s in the packaged foods we’re buying! I always hone in on the ingredient list first! The nutrition label is secondary. I’m sure this nutrition label would say “LOTS OF FAT”, but it’s GOOD fat, so enjoy it.

Unfortunately, the sardine market is limited at Wegman’s and Greenstar. I say that because ideally this tin would not have “aqueous natural smoke.” I’ve learned never to trust the word “natural,” since much of the “natural flavorings” are produced in factories lining I-95 on the New Jersey Turnpike (if you don’t believe me, read Fast Food Nation and the bulk of literature out there).

However, there are a few white flags that help me believe it’s just fine. For example, it’s a “Micro-Cannery” based on sustainable practices, or so they say. Again, I become dubious because it says “Sustainably Caught Along the California Coast” but then why the hell would it be processed in Vietnam? Eh? However, I do like to support the little guys, as they tend to err on a healthier production and processing system than mass-produced brands.

These are the conflicts and confusion ever-present in food purchasing. Alas, sometimes you just have to go with your gut. I often refer to a great resource called Seafood Watch, which makes these handy pocket guides to download and tuck away in your wallet. Ours is on the fridge.

 

Escarole Salad, with Sweet n’ Sour Onions and Sardines

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    Onions
  • 1.5 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Grilled French Baguette with Roasted Garlic
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 slice baguette, per person, plus extra for appetizing
  • Salad
  • 1 egg per person
  • 1 bunch of escarole, torn or coarsely chopped, a hearty winter salad green that's ever so slightly bitter, but delicious
  • 1 carrot, grated with vegetable peeler
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tin sardines in olive oil

Instructions

    Onions:
  1. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat until it turns a light nutty brown. Careful not to burn it. Add the onions, stir briefly and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for five minutes. The onions will sweat inside, releasing more liquid and soaking up the buttery goodness. Add the sugar, vinegar, and salt. Stir and cover again. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for ten more minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the liquid disappears. The onions should be caramel-colored and so soft they appear slightly "melted" but still in tact. Remove from heat and set aside on a hot plate, covered.
  2. Grilled French baguette with Roasted Garlic:
  3. Preheat your oven broiler to high, or oven temperature to 450. Mix the garlic and olive oil in a small oven-proof dish. Broil or bake for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool .
  4. Meanwhile, cut the bread so you have a long diagonal slice (see picture below). In a cast iron skillet or small frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke or show signs that it's hot, place the bread face down for about two minutes, allowing the interior to char slightly (in the summer, drizzle the bread with olive oil and throw straight on the grill!).
  5. When the bread is finished, squeeze the roasted garlic from the peel and smear lavishly on the bread. Eat some now, and save enough to assemble with your salad!
  6. Salad:
  7. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil. Add your eggs to the boiling water and set your timer for ten minutes (I like to make more eggs than needed for snacks and lunches during the week - a satisfying source or protein). Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of water with ice cubes. When the timer sounds, remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon, or drain in a colander. Immediately transfer to the ice bath. Let sit for two minutes and then remove. Peel and slice the eggs you will use.
  8. Wash the salad and dry on a tea towel or in a salad spinner. When dry mix in a bowl with grated carrots.
  9. In a small bowl or dish, whisk (with a fork or whisk) together the honey, olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
  10. Toss the lettuce and carrots with the dressing.

Notes

Allergens: dairy, eggs, fish

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