Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta

I’ve talked about sardines on this blog before (and again), even though I imagine you all are giving me funny looks.  So much talking, in fact, that I recently got some free samples from BELA, a local company that sources Portuguese sardines for the U.S. market.  Besides your standard olive-oil-packed sardines, they also have lemon, tomato, and hot pepper packed fish.  (All of which I love, of course).  The canned filets are plump, meaty, and flavorful–both lightly smoked and briny.

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta (1 of 5)

Sardines are my favorite “fast food,” and I’ve admitted before that I’ll open up a can and eat them with toasted crusty bread as a meal when I’m too busy to do more.  But with not much more effort, and thanks to inspiration from the lovely Argentinian food blog Momentos Gastronomicos, I’ve recently bumped it up a notch.  I made a few modifications to Rocio’s recipe, making it a bit more pantry friendly:  using BELA’s tomato-packed sardines in lieu of fresh tomatoes.

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta (3 of 5)

I admit, this is not a low-fat recipe, but it’s one that is chock-full of all those good fats we’re supposed to be eating–omega-3’s in the sardines, healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado, and of course the elixir of the gods, olive oil.  But I just like it because of how it tastes.

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta (5 of 5)

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta
Author: adapted from Rocio at [url href=”http://momentosgastronomicos.com”%5DMomentos Gastronomicos[/url]
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • Two slices of artisan bread
  • several garlic cloves (depending on size)
  • olive oil
  • one avocado
  • one small red onion (you will not need the whole onion)
  • one can BELA sardines packed in tomato sauce
  • olives (kalamata-style or oil packed)
Instructions
  1. Rub each slice of bread with a cut garlic clove. Toast under the broiler until lightly browned, remove from the oven, and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  2. Meanwhile, cut your avocado in half, remove it from its skin, and slice cross-wise into semi-circles. Do the same with your onion (slicing into thin half-circles).
  3. Arrange the canned sardines evenly over both slices of bread, then alternately layer on the avocado and onion. Top with a few olives, serve immediately, and enjoy.

Sardine and Avocado Bruschetta (4 of 5)

Baked Eggs on Wilted Spinach

As Marie explained a little while back, egg based dishes are really the ticket to a quick, protein-rich, satisfying meal.  And such dishes are even better being as they are, welcome any time of day–a relaxed dinner, an elegant brunch platter, an easy lunch.

Though while I often think of egg-based dishes making for light meals, there are plenty of ways that they do not.  Quiche, I’m looking at you.  Even in your “healthier” spinach quiche guise, you still have loads of cream and butter and cheese.  Might as well just eat the quiche with bacon.

Eggs Baked over Wilted Spinach (6 of 6)

This recipe, however, both claims to be, and really is, a light meal.  The eggs are gently baked in the oven over a bed of flavors–earthy spinach infused with the robust aroma of aleppo pepper, playing off against the sweetness of gently sautéed onions.  It’s particularly nice right now as the weather gets warmer and will easily round out all those “casual” brunch parties we’ll be throwing all summer on our perfectly manicured backyards, with fizzy mimosas made from fresh squeezed oranges decorating our perfectly manicured hands as we toss our heads back with effortless laughter.  Or, it is equally appropriate for more slapdash brunches–the only ones we manage to have, usually starting at the ungodly brunch hour of 9am on a Sunday since everyone we know has young kids so we’ve all been up several hours by then anyway.

Eggs Baked over Wilted Spinach (4 of 6)

I once read that baking eggs in the oven was used as a true test of a cook’s skill at the great French culinary academies (in fact it’s probably a cliché), and when you make this dish you can see why.  It’s hard to tell just by looking if the eggs have set.  Although  the whites are fairly straightforward–they’re either white or they are not–the yolks remain surprisingly (and confoundingly) vibrant yellow and almost glossy.   Of course, the upside of this is that your yolks set into that slightly creamy, yet firm consistency that is the hallmark of a well-cooked hard-boiled egg.  I ended up relying on the very scientific “poke the yolk with your finger” test.

Eggs Baked over Wilted Spinach (5 of 6)

Before I scare anyone off however, I fully admit to overcooking my eggs and this dish still turns out wonderfully.  And to assuage any further fears, I overdo things intentionally, because I worry about things like giving my kids salmonella.  I needn’t have worried:  The last time we brought this to a brunch, they wouldn’t touch it once they saw that blog-famous amazing pull-apart bread our hostess had made.

Baked Eggs on Wilted Spinach

Notes:  Stemming spinach goes remarkably fast (especially as compared to other greens), no knife needed.  Simply fold in half along the stem and zip the leaves off.   I use two bunches of spinach, and my kitchen scale malfunctioned when I tried to weigh the stemmed leaves, but assuming your bunches are 12 ounces each you’ll probably end up with 8 ounces of leaves.  It’s not a make or break proposition so no worries.  Make sure to wash your spinach well–it traps dirt remarkably well.  The first time I made this there was an unwelcome grittiness to the meal, so I learned my lesson.

I like to preheat the baking dish in the oven while I make the spinach mixture, and then add a light coating of oil, on the theory that this will make the eggs will be less liable to stick and therefore the dish easier to clean off.

  • 3T olive oil
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2t aleppo pepper (or more, or substitute some other dried pepper)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large bunches of spinach, stemmed
  • 4 eggs
  • Optional:  Greek yogurt to garnish

Preheat the oven to 310F.

Heat the olive oil over medium low in a large skillet.   Add the onion and sautee until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, aleppo pepper, and spinach and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted.  Adjust for salt and pepper.  Transfer to a baking dish (or use your skillet if it can be transferred to the oven; unless you are using a lot of spinach an 8 inch skillet is probably the best size).

Crack each egg into a separate cup (or crack two eggs gently into two cups if you are more daring).  Make wells in the spinach mixture and gently pour an egg into each indentation.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 310–though allow extra time as I’ve had it take even 10 minutes more at times.  (I’m guessing depending on the temperature of the eggs).

Serve with greek yogurt, if desired.

Eggs Baked over Wilted Spinach (2 of 6)

Zucchini Pancakes with Dill

I have suffered my share of unsuccessful attempts at zucchini pancakes, and it all comes down to this:  inadequate (and in one case, nonexistent) draining of the shredded zucchini.

But what a difference it makes!  I often try to figure out if recipe steps are actually essential, or are just fussiness.  This step, as my husband may be heard saying to our son at bedtime, is “not optional.” 

Besides that not unimportant impact on the pancake’s integrity (so you are not left with, let’s call it what it is, slop), the salting also brightens the flavor of the zucchini and improves its texture.  I’m not always a fan of many preparations of squash (summer or winter) because they are simply just too water-logged.  Roasted?  Good.  Sauteed?  Meh.  Steamed?  Help!  Dry vs. wet. It’s all making sense now.

Many recipes for these griddlecakes suggest a bit of shredded onion for flavor, but I threw in dill instead.  As a devoted eater of Greek and Turkish food, I know that cucumber (another vegetable improved by a pre-salting to draw out water) and dill go together well.  Zucchini sort of looks like cucumber, so…why not?  (Is that a weird way to go about flavor pairings?  Oh well).  It worked.  Dill resulted in flecks of vibrant green and a fresh, ferny flavor.  I enjoyed it with my homemade yogurt, which I always have plenty of (and which refers back to the tzatziki inspiration for this dish).

A successful venture:  pancakes finally mastered, a zucchini recipe that pleases my picky taste buds.  Oh, and once you’ve drained the zucchini, it’s fast too!

Zucchini Pancakes with Dill

  • 1 1/2 lb zucchini (about three medium)
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1/3c flour
  • salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c fresh dill, minced
  • butter for frying

Shred the zucchini, layering with salt.  (I sprinkled about a half teaspoon of salt after each addition of zucchini).  Place in a colander to drain for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Squeeze out the remaining liquid, as much as you can.

Mix the zucchini in with the rest of the ingredients.  Heat a heavy skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat and melt the butter, just until the foam subsides.  Add the batter, forming pancakes.  After a few minutes, when the top has begun to firm up slightly, flip to cook the other side.  Pancakes should be crispy brown on both sides.  Serve immediately, with yogurt.

These cook fast, but you can keep them warm in a 200F/90C oven.