Archive for January, 2010

AB’s sardine toast

We tried Alton Brown’s Sherried Sardine Toast yesterday. Because it yielded four servings, we halved the recipe for two; also, because we decided to make it at the last minute, we didn’t let it sit for a while to let the flavors combine. It was still tasty. The avocado provided a thick creamy texture, which was good with the salty bite of the sardines.

The recipe is as follows, though I’ve marked our substitutions. (I do fully intend to try this recipe as written, but I try not to let lack of a few nonessential ingredients stop me from trying a new recipe.)

Alton Brown’s Sardine Toast

2 (3.75-ounce 2-layer) tins brisling sardines in olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves, divided (we used garlic sprouts*)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, reserve the lemon and cut into 4 wedges
Freshly ground black pepper
4 (1/2-inch) thick slices crusty bread, such as sourdough, country loaf or rye
1 ripe Hass avocado
Coarse sea salt

Drain the oil from 1 tin of sardines into a small bowl and set aside. Drain the oil from the other tin into another small bowl and whisk in 1 tablespoon of parsley, vinegar, lemon zest, and black pepper, to taste. Add the sardines, stir to combine and set aside for up to 1 hour.

After 45 minutes, put a rack 3-inches from the broiler and heat the oven to the broiler setting on high. Brush each slice of bread on 1 side with the reserved oil. Put the bread, oil side up, onto a cooling rack set inside a half sheet pan and broil 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. (Since I had only one tin, I just brushed the bread with a little oil, and used the rest for the sardine dressing; the bread got toasted in the toaster oven.)

Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Smash the flesh in each half with a fork.

Spread the avocado evenly onto the toasted bread. Top evenly with the sardines. Pour any remaining dressing on top and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Season lightly with sea salt and serve with lemon wedges. (I served up the extra half-an-avocado alongside. Mmm, avocado.)

*garlic sprouts! I had always heard before to discard the green sprout that comes up out of garlic cloves, but one of our older relatives was actually cultivating them. So we did the same; we put an ordinary bulb of garlic in a shallow bowl of water. In no time at all, the roots started to grow like crazy, and the green sprouts came shooting straight up out of the cloves. Snipped up into omelets or whatever else, the sprouts produce a great garlic flavor with very little fuss. It’s like having garlicky chives growing in the house.


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book club dinner

I get together with friends for a monthly book club, which is really more of an excuse for snack pot luck. Sure, we discuss the book, but we also nosh happily on the food offerings, which (this time) included chocolate rum cake, crab dip, pita and hummus, a cranberry cheese log, raspberry brie wrappers, and ginger snaps, among other tasty snacks. I have learned to eat light and healthy before book club.

This is the dinner I throw together if I know I’m going somewhere full of tasty (though not terribly nutritious) snacks: a small amount of protein, served alongside a large amount of greens. Sometimes it’s as simple as a fried egg over a salad of mixed greens, with salt, pepper, and maybe a sprinkling of cheese (I like my eggs runny, so I just pierce the yolk and let the yolk and cheese flavor the greens). Last night it was half of a salmon patty (K got the other half) and a generous helping of stir-fried spinach.

The salmon patty was from the freezer section at Costco; it’s 100% wild Alaskan salmon, and incredibly easy to prepare. You just pry a patty from the tube and pan-sear it for 4-5 minutes on each side, and it turns slightly crispy on the outside and wonderfully savory. It provides a lot of nutrition and flavor for minimum effort, and we make them last longer by sharing a patty between us.

The spinach was also from Costco, in the fresh veggies section; we got a giant bag of baby spinach (it was too big to fit in the refrigerator drawer) but spinach cooks down like nobody’s business, so it goes quickly. Give your spinach a quick rinse and spin in the salad spinner and it’s ready to go.

I think this mini-dinner came together in under ten minutes, easily. To make a “real” dinner out of it, just add some starch, in the form of pasta, rice, bread, or potatoes.

Stir-fried Spinach

Four generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves (enough to fill a medium-sized wok), rinsed and spun dry
Sesame oil, to film the wok
Garlic powder (or a clove or two of garlic, minced)
Red chili flakes
Oyster sauce
Soy sauce or Maggi seasoning, if you have it

Pour a small glug of sesame oil into the wok, just enough to film the surface, and heat over a medium flame. Add a pinch of red chili flakes, crushed in the palm of your hand, to the oil. If you don’t have a wok, a high-sided saucepan is fine. If using minced garlic, heat the garlic in the oil as well.

When the oil is hot, add the spinach, as well as a generous sprinkle of garlic powder (if using), two or three generous glugs of oyster sauce, and a glug of soy sauce (or Maggi). Toss gently to combine; don’t worry if it doesn’t get on all the spinach. Cover the wok for two minutes. Then uncover the wok and toss the spinach until all of it is wilted and has some seasoning on it.

Serve hot.

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