I think the anticipation of making this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie, Sardines Escabeche, was one of the most-dreaded in the book. While I sympathize with others’ trepidation, I wasn’t bothered by it, because I like fish, even oily fish, and even sardines, In fact, I had a little trouble finding fresh sardines this week and was disappointed to think I wouldn’t get to try it.
The stars aligned and I found sardines at the largest Whole Foods in my area. And, I remembered to ask for them to be cleaned. Last time I bought fresh sardines, I didn’t realize they were whole, guts and all, so had to quickly teach myself to clean them out. Yuck… I hadn’t read the recipe through and didn’t realize they needed to be filleted, so this time around, I learned how to fillet sardines, courtesy of Jamie Oliver. It wasn’t too bad. I’ll take filleting over cleaning any day!
I couldn’t quite imagine what this dish was going to be like as I put it together. The sardine fillets are quickly fried to partially cook them, arranged in a dish, and strewn with thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and sun-dried tomatoes. Then thinly sliced vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, and garlic) are sautéed and then simmered in olive oil, vinegar and spices (and a little bit of ketchup). The hot vegetable mixture is poured over the fish and chilled overnight.
We ate the sardines escabeche with crusty bread for dipping in the flavorful oil and a beet walnut salad on the side — a picnic of sorts.
There was a reverse verdict on this one. Howard really enjoyed it. For me, the fish was just too fishy. It reminded me of pickled herring, which is one of the few fish preparations that I don’t really care for. On the other hand, I loved the oily pickled vegetables. While I doubt I would make this with sardines, I would make the vegetables, or maybe even the bonne idée, using shrimp instead.
To see how the other Doristas made out with their escabeche, check out their links here. You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table or this similar one on Dorie’s website.
Now that’s officially summer, the season can’t seem to decide whether to stay or not. Weather aside, recent sunshine and warm days has put me in the mood for my favorite kinds of dishes, side salads. In summer, I’d be happy if every meal were a picnic, with a variety of cold or room-temperature salads, no main course required. I love side salads of almost any kind: potato salads, bean salads, grain salads, vegetable salads, you name it.
I have plenty of old favorites (check the side salads section on my recipe index for a few), but I’m always on the lookout for new combinations of flavors and ingredients. Recently, I came across two noteworthy salads on blogs that I follow.
The first was for Potato Salad with Tarragon and Chives, that I found on sis. boom. [blog!], written by the creative (and wickedly funny) Trevor. I love his take on food and presentation. His blog always offers something new to inspire me.
This potato salad is vinaigrette-based, not mayonnaise-based, which makes it great for summer eating. It can sit out without danger. I used about 2 pounds of baby Yukon gold potatoes and substituted thinly sliced red onion for the shallots. I have a lush herb garden, right outside the kitchen door, and used a generous amount of freshly picked tarragon and chives. It was light and hearty at the same time. I think this recipe will be added to the summer roster.
The other new salad winner is for Tabbouli, the Middle Eastern parsley and bulgur salad, from Bakeaway with Me, written by Kathy, another of my cyber-friends from French Fridays with Dorie. Kathy writes most often about mouth-watering baked goods, though I haven’t had a chance to try any of those yet. This salad, her grandmother’s recipe, moved right to the top of my “must try” list. I LOVE tabbouli!
What I particularly loved about this recipe was the abundant green parsley and the warm flavors of cinnamon and allspice in the lemony dressing. The recipe calls for two bunches of parsley, much more than other recipes I’ve made before use. I typically use Italian (flat) parsley in all my cooking, but for this salad, I used curly parsley, as Kathy does. It tasted fresh and summery. I think the curly parsley is sturdier than the flat, so the leftovers were in good shape the next day. I made half a recipe, which made enough for the two of use to have with dinner and then lunch the next day. Actually, I’ve made this twice this week. It’s perfect!
One more thing, perhaps along the line of airing dirty laundry or sharing one of my pecadillos, but meant to amuse. As I finished making the tabbouli, took some photos, and was about to bring the bowl to the table, Howard remarked (with affection, I’m sure) at how amazing it was that I had wreaked complete chaos on the kitchen in the 20 minutes I spent making the salad. I am a very messy cook and have a knack for dirtying the maximum number of bowls and utensils. Here’s a picture of the debris of my cyclone. Of course, I cleaned it up after dinner, but we did share a few laughs about it over our meal.