Sardines are to Mediterraneans what tuna is to most Americans.
The city of Safi in Morocco has the largest sardine port in the world. And we grew up eating them, so this helps explain why I love them in every shape or form, grilled or in tajines fresh (an unfrequent treat here alas), or canned in sandwiches, in spreads, added to pasta and pizza. If I could think of a few ingredient that gets the stepchild treatment in this country, sardines would be one of them.
Just the mention sardines brings a wrinkle to some noses.
Mentioning I look for sardines with skin and bones gets me weary looks, as if I had said I am growing hair on my legs.
How do sardines come to be so underrated in America? Is it their fault that they look so homely, and smell so pungent? Have you tried them in a sandwich or panini with some lettuce and tomato? Try them in this recipe and let me know if they are beginning to grow on you! Please don’t recoil from the skin and bones, and whatever you do don’t discard any of it: You won’t see them in the finished dish—plus, that’s where all the flavor and nutrition are so you will enjoy them immensely.
This dish is whipped up in minutes. Talk about Gastronomie Sans Argent! When we can’t have Duck Rillettes, we whip up Sardine Rillettes in no time and for pennies. I love to see the humble and neglected sardine get so brilliantly vindicated! You will love it on canapes, as a spread on apple or cucumber slices, a sandwich filling with some added lettuce leaves and tomato slices, with some watercress or other greens in a salad, or as a dip. Be sure to look for sardines in water for this dish, so the finished dish doesn’t come out too greasy. Top the canapes with tiny gherkins or capers. No added salt anywhere please, as even the sardines marked low sodium have enough seasoning.
I have included here a hand roll variation, which makes for a more dramatic presentation.
- 2 cans sardines in water, undrained
- 1/4 cup tehina paste
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 2-3 tablespoons bottled hot sauce, such as Sriracha
- 6 scallions, sliced very thin
Place the sardines and their liquids in a bowl. Add all but last ingredient, and mash with a fork until smooth but still a little chunky. Stir in the scallions. keep refrigerated in a pint glass jar. Serve at room temperature.
Variation: Hand Rolls.
A funky and easy take on spicy tuna hand rolls. Make the exact same spread, and bulk it up with alfalfa sprouts and finely chopped watercress, or some cooked brown rice. Use the filling for nori hand rolls