Sep 6, 2015

SARDINES... The First Canned Seafood

The term sardine was first used in English during the early 15th century, and may come from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant. 

Napoleon Bonaparte
In 1810, an inventor named Pierre-Joseph Colin, from Brittany, invented tinned sardines to help feed Napoleon Bonaparte's troops through long months on campaign in Europe. The first tins were well soldered and needed a hammer to open them. It wasn't until 1825 that Thomas Kensett (of England), received an American patent for tinplated cans.

The consumption of canned sardines in Hawaii began when the plantation workers and Pacific Islanders added this cheap, portable food to their diet, this was just before the Hormel Company came out with the ground pork concoction called SPAM. SPAM joined and then overtook sardines, luncheon meat, canned corned beef, and Vienna sausages as the locals favorite.

Like so many foods, you either like sardines or you don't. I have found that they are very popular all over the world, probably because they are affordable, have plenty of protein, and are a nutritional powerhouse because they are full of omega-3 fatty acids, more than salmon, tuna, or just about any other food, and they're packed with vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium.

I've loved sardines ever since my dad introduced me to his sardine sandwiches. Oil packed sardines on toasted rye bread with a butter/mayo,mustard spread, red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. I still eat those sardine sandwiches because of him (see recipe below).

If you can't find the King Oscar brand, 
you can buy them on
Sardines are an oily fish related to herring. They can have a strong flavor depending on how they are prepared. There are a lot of foods that come in a can that bear no resemblance to the fresh version, sardines are good fresh or canned, but I think canned sardines are better than fresh. One thing to know is that not all canned sardines taste the same, so you have to try a few brands until you find one you like. My favorite is the King Oscar brand, brisling sardines from cold Norwegian fjords. They have a delicate flavor and the texture is firm, not mushy (click here to read about them). Unfortunately you can't get them on Moloka'i, so I buy them from I have found that Misaki's grocery store here on Moloka'i has more brands than anyone locally.

Canned sardines are very popular where I live, on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, so here are a few of my favorite sardine recipes:

Quinoa Sardine Sushi Rolls
2 8-inch nori sheets
6 oz. can of sardines
1/2 cup cooked quinoa or sushi rice
1/2 cup shredded or julienned cucumbers or carrots (or a combination)
Tamari sauce
Wasabi paste

Mix 1-2 teaspoons hot water into the cooked quinoa, to make it more sticky.
Lay out the nori sheets. Along each of the lengthwise ends, spread the quinoa evenly.
Top with the sardines and carrots/cucumbers. Roll up the nori sheet carefully, but firmly. Slice into 1-inch pieces with a wet knife blade.

Make a dipping sauce by combining Tamari sauce (or soy sauce) with a dab of Wasabi paste. Makes 12 sushi rolls.

Sardine Pupu Spread
Sardine pupus are basically canned sardines made into a pâté and spread over slices of cucumber or on crackers. Appetizers in Hawaii are called pupus.

Two 3 3/4 ounce cans of sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
2 1/2 ounces of cream cheese
1/4 cup minced shallots (or minced red onions that have soaked in lemon juice for a few minutes)
1-2 scallions (green onions), white and light green parts only (about 3 inches from root), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup lime juice or lemon juice, or to taste
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, or dill
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cucumbers, sliced about 1/4" thick

Remove the sardines from the cans. Using a small, sharp knife, carefully open each one down the belly and back, folding them open to expose the backbone. Remove and discard the bones. Cut away and discard any tails. Set aside.

Place the cream cheese in a medium bowl. Fold and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the shallots, scallions, fresh herbs, and most of the lime or lemon juice, mixing into the cheese with the spatula.

Add the now boneless sardines to the cheese mixture. Use a fork to smash the sardines and stir into the cheese. Add cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Add more lime or lemon juice to taste.

Serve immediately on slices of cucumber. Makes about 1 cup of spread, enough to serve 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

Mixed Green Salad 
with Artichokes & Sardines
extra-virgin olive oil mixed with the oil in the marinated artichoke jar to make 1/2 cup
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 cups mixed greens
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
2 ounces canned sardines in olive oil
1/4 cup sliced red onion

Place oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper in a blender or a jar with a tight-fitting lid; blend or shake until well combined.

Place greens in an individual salad bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. (Refrigerate the remaining dressing.) Top the greens with artichoke hearts, sardines and onion. Makes 1 serving.

Sardine and Celery Salad
This simple salad uses canned sardines and celery to create a wonderful Portuguese side dish or a nifty little lunch.

1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Four 4 3/8-ounce cans sardines in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
4 large celery ribs, peeled and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, mix the parsley with the olive oil, grainy and Dijon mustards, red onion and the lemon juice and zest. Fold in the sardines and celery and season with salt and pepper. Chill and serve with rye crackers. Makes 4 servings.

Dad's Sardine Sandwich
My dad was in the hotel/restaurant business, and traveled extensively with my mother. 
They ate out a lot, but one of his favorite sandwiches was this simple deli sardine sandwich, 
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Dad's Sardine Sandwich
Click on photo to view larger
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Boston lettuce leaves, or use spinach or arugula if you want to get fancy
4 slices dark rye bread, toasted
2 3.75-ounce cans sardines (oil-packed), drained, pin bones and spine removed
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced cucumber and tomato

With a fork, cream the butter in a small bowl. Mix in the mayonnaise and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toast the bread. Arrange 4 slices on a work surface; spread some of the mustard mixture on each slice of bread. Top 2 of the slices with lettuce leaves, tomato, and cucumber. Add the sardines and then the red onions, dividing both equally. Top with the other slices of toasted bread. Cut each sandwich in half and serve with dill pickles or "Pickled Green Tomatoes" (recipe). Makes 2 sandwiches.

Filipino Sardines & Tomatoes
Lately I have noticed in one of our local markets, Friendly Market, small, dried sardines. I asked the meat manager, PJ, how locals eat them. He said that the Filipinos fry them, then add tomatoes, onions, and garlic. He also said that they are a little hard on your breath, so I used fresh sardines for this recipe, which don't have that strong odor. 

If sardines aren't your thing, try this recipe using shrimp. If you can't find Southeast Asia calamansi limes, you can substitute lemon juice, however if you live on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, you can get them at our Saturday farmers market.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, minced (2 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, or regular paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large can of sardines in tomato sauce
Fresh calamansi limes, or fresh lemon wedges, for squeezing over the sardines

Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan over moderately high heat. Add the shallot, garlic, dried red pepper flakes, and paprika and cook until the shallot becomes soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine, continuing to cook until the tomato paste just begins to brown, 1 minute more.

Toss the cherry tomatoes into the pan and sauté until the tomatoes soften and have released some of their juices, 5-7 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the water and fish sauce and simmer until the liquid reduces and thickens a bit, about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove the sardines from the can and arrange them in a single layer, on top of the tomato sauce in an oven safe sauté pan. Pour the tomato sauce in the sardine can over the sardines. Place the pan underneath the broiler and broil for 5 or 6 minutes, flipping the fish over once during that time.
Serve with steamed white rice and calamansi limes, or lemon wedges, on the side for squeezing over the sardines. Makes 2-4 servings.

Italian Fettuccine with Sardines
8 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (see Note below), preferably whole-wheat
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3- to 4-ounce cans boneless, skinless sardines, preferably in tomato sauce, flaked
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and sizzling but not brown, about 20 seconds. Transfer the garlic and oil to a large bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until crispy and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Whisk lemon juice, pepper and salt into the garlic oil. Add the pasta to the bowl along with sardines, parsley and Parmesan. Gently stir to combine. Serve sprinkled with the breadcrumbs.

Note: To make fresh breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. One slice of bread makes about 1/2 cup fresh crumbs.

Sardines & Tomatoes on Puff Pastry
8-10 sardine halves in olive oil
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 to 4 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk
Fresh chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 400˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a saucepan, mix tomatoes, oregano, basil, lemon juice and sugar. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. The tomato sauce should be sweet and aromatic. Set aside.

Place the thawed sheet of puff pastry on the parchment lined baking sheet. Polk holes in the pastry with a fork except for the edges. Brush the edges of the puff pastry with the egg yolk. Spread the tomato sauce on top of the of the pastry, leaving 1 inch around the pastry without any sauce.

Top the sauce with the sardines, drizzling a few tablespoons of the olive oil that the sardines come in over the fish. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. Garnish with fresh chives. Cut into 4 pieces and serve warm. Serve with "Spicy Cucumber Salad with Garlic", on the side. Makes 4 servings

Tuyosilog (Dried Sardines, egg and fried rice) 
& Tazukuri (Candied Sardines)
I had to include these recipes because I saw a container of salt dried baby sardines in Friendly Market here on Moloka'i this week, and wondered what locals do with them. Check out these links for these interesting recipes. 

"Tuyosilog" is a common Filipino breakfast dish consisting of salted & dried sardines accompanied by sautéed tomatoes, onions fried rice and eggs recipe.

"Tazukuri" is a Japanese recipe that roasts dried baby sardines with sesame seeds and then coats them is a sweet soy sauce glaze. This dish is typically eaten on New Year's day as it symbolizes a bountiful harvest.

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