Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spaghetti with Sardines, Almonds, and Orange

Lately sardines have been much in the news. The last American sardine cannery is closing. Mark Bittman is cooking with sardines, and he encourages you to try too. A kind person has published this ranking of sardines that I found here. Now it's time for my contribution to the sardine genre. My recommendation is to buy sardines packed in olive oil. I've never actually eaten the ones packed in water, but if I were a fish doomed to spend a year in a dark can surrounded by liquid, I would want it to be olive oil. The distinguishing thing about this recipe is the almonds and orange zest. I got the idea from a restaurant review that claimed this was some famous chef's signature move, but I can't remember whose or find the review. This recipe only takes 40 minutes or so, and it serves two or three people depending on what else you're having.

  • 1/2 pound pasta
  • 1 can sardines without bones, packed in olive oil (mine was 85 grams, not counting the can)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 dried mild chilies, crushed up (or some red pepper flakes)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • zest of an orange
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • chopped parsley
  • 2 tbs. oil, plus the oil from the sardine can
  • salt, pepper

Put on a pot of salty water, and start cooking the spaghetti as soon as it comes to a boil. Heat a small pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat and put the almond slices in it to toast. Shake them up from time to time and keep a close eye on them. Take them out when they start turning brown, and add the orange zest to them.

Meanwhile, start cooking the onion in a large skillet over medium heat with the olive oil and some salt and pepper, stirring occasionally. Add the chilies. Cook the onion until it softens up and browns a bit, 10-15 minutes. Add the sardines and their oil, mush them up a bit, and cook them till they're heated through. Add the lemon juice and some more pepper. Mix all of this with the cooked spaghetti, add the almonds with the zest, and serve with Parmesan (or without).

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