Showing posts with label sardines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sardines. Show all posts

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sardine Keftedes

As soon as our weather warms up, I start thinking more and more about Greek food. Grilled souvlaki with tzatziki is a favorite; cucumber, tomato, olive, and feta salad with basil is a must, and so is watermelon with seared halloumi. Just in time for summer, I received a review copy of Smashing Plates: Greek Flavors Redefined by Maria Elia. I’m a big fan of her book The Modern Vegetarian, so I suspected there would be a lot to like about this new book. This time, the recipes aren’t entirely vegetarian, but many are and many others are adaptable to exclude meat. Elia set out to take Greek ingredients “on a new culinary journey.” The dishes in this book are familiar but with a new perspective. For instance, figs appear often in Greek cuisine, but the leaves aren’t used. Elia was inspired to incorporate fig leaves in different ways. There’s a recipe for fresh pasta made with dried fig leaves, and the pasta is served with Lemon and Oregano Roasted Tomatoes, fresh figs, and almonds. Also, there’s a Fig-Leaf Wrapped Feta dish that’s baked until the feta is softened. Another recipe that caught my eye was the Scallops, Soutzouki, and Watermelon dish that looks perfect for summer. I’d skip the sausage component, but the Raisin Oregano Dressing served with it sounds so intriguing. Then, I saw the Sardine Keftedes and headed straight to the kitchen. I still had a tin of sardines that I brought home from Spain, and this was a great use for it. To make the keftedes, it’s actually about a half and half mix of chickpeas and sardines that are combined with bread crumbs and lots of great flavorings. The result is not too sardine-forward, and sardines are a great choice of sustainable seafood with healthy omega-3s. 

Rinsed and drained chickpeas from a can were added to the food processor with tahini and broken up a bit by pulsing. That was transferred to a mixing bowl. Depending on what kind of canned sardines you choose, you might need to remove the backbones. Once boneless, the sardines were broken into pieces and added to the chickpea mixture. Kefalotyri cheese was to be used, but I wasn’t able to find it the day I needed it, so I used Myzithra. Parmesan or pecorino could also be substituted. The finely shredded cheese was added to the mix with a pinch of cinnamon, a little cumin, some paprika, an egg, and bread crumbs. I also used some parsley, oregano, and basil from my herb garden. Mint was suggested in the ingredient list, but I tend to skip mint and opt for basil. The mixture was divided into 12 portions and rolled into balls that were flattened, dusted with flour, and seared in olive oil until golden on each side. 

The keftedes were served with a sprinkling of sumac and lemon wedges for squeezing. I topped them with yogurt mixed with fresh dill and added a cucumber, tomato, and feta salad on the side. The sprinkling of sumac added a bright, citrusy note. Elia suggests serving them in a sandwich with skordalia, tomatoes, and basil. I’ll try that next time. And, then I need to try several other dishes and spend some time with the sweets chapter. The Almond, Rose Water, and Chocolate Mallomar Chimneys might be next.  

Sardine Keftedes 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Smashing Plates: Greek Flavors Redefined by Maria Elia is published by Kyle Books, priced $27.95. Photography by Jenny Zarins.

These are great served cold in a sandwich with skordalia, vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh basil—it adds a whole new meaning to a fish finger sandwich! I like to serve mine with Lemon Parsley Salad (page 147) and a little Skordalia (page 130), Taramasalata (page 129), or dill yogurt. Variations: Omit the Kefalotyri and add 1⁄3 cup of crumbled feta and 2 tablespoons of grated onion. 

Makes 12 

1 x 14oz can of chickpeas, drained 
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped 
3 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons tahini 
2 x 3 1/2oz cans of sardines, drained, backbones removed 
a pinch of ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/2 teaspoon paprika 
1⁄3 cup Kefalotyri, Parmesan, or Pecorino 
1 free-range egg sea 
salt and freshly ground black pepper 
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs 
all-purpose flour, for dusting 
olive oil, for frying 
sumac, to sprinkle 
lemon wedges, to serve (optional) 

Put the chickpeas, herbs, and tahini in a food processor and pulse until the chickpeas have broken up a little. Transfer to a bowl. Add the sardines, flaking them into pieces by hand, then the spices, cheese, egg, and some salt and pepper. Mix well, adding the bread crumbs to combine. 

Divide the mixture into 12 and roll into balls, dusting in the flour. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate, uncovered, for a couple of hours to firm up. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, slightly flatten the keftedes so they’ll cook evenly, and pan-fry until golden on each side (about 3 minutes per side). You could deep-fry if you prefer, at 325°F for 2–3 minutes, turning once. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and sumac, and serve immediately or at room temperature, with lemon wedges on the side, if you wish.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Passport Spain: The Diversity of Spanish Seafood

Central Market stores are once again offering a Passport event with the focus this time on Spain. For two weeks, from May 11 until May 24, special Spanish products including olive oils, wines, canned seafood, rice, and chocolate are available. During this event, the Cooking School classes fit the Spanish theme as well. Last Thursday, I was invited to attend The Diversity of Spanish Seafood class with a media pass. Our instructors for the evening were Chef Daniel Olivella of B44 in San Francisco and Barlata in Oakland and Chef Quim Marques of Suquet de l'Almirall in Barcelona. Chef Olivella let us know that he's hoping to open another tapas restaurant much like Barlata in Austin as soon as next year. The two chefs informed and entertained as they showed the class how to prepare five different seafood dishes.

Up first, we were to have been shown a grilled salt cod dish. When the two chefs arrived and saw what was available locally in the way of salt cod, they changed their plan. They explained that in Spain, shops selling salt cod offer a vast range of options from heads and tails to small cuts to larger, thicker pieces. Since what they found upon arrival was smaller pieces of salt cod, they changed their plan and chose not to grill it. Instead, they prepared a xato or Catalonian salad. The salt cod had been soaked, rinsed, and dried and was cut into small segments. A dressing was prepared from a classic romesco sauce and was tossed with frissee leaves. The salad was built from the dressed frissee, chopped black olives, cherry tomatoes, and salt cod pieces. I've used romesco sauce as a salad dressing before, and it works perfectly. The briny fish and olives matched well with the flavors of pureed tomato and chiles in the sauce/dressing.

Next, a simple snack, something to serve with cocktails before a dinner party, or a tapa was presented. Coca is an easy to prepare, cracker-like flatbread. Chef Olivella explained that coca is made with flour, water, and leftover food. It's a casual thing to make that's topped with whatever is on hand. Ordinarily, it would be made in a large circle like a pizza, but for this dish, it was cut into small rectangles to make it finger food. The coca base was topped with sliced tomato that had been skinned and seeded and dressed with olive oil, some roasted onion and red bell pepper, a piece of sardine, a sliver of Iberico ham, and some grated Idiazabal cheese. This all made a very flavorful bite.

Our next seafood dish was made with octopus. Because cooking octopus can take up to two hours, it had been prepared in advance, and the technique was just explained without an actual demonstration. The suggested technique was to bring a large pot of water with peppercorns and a bay leaf to a boil. Once boiling, you should hold the octopus at the top and slowly dip its legs into the boiling water, then lift it out, dunk again, and repeat three times before placing the entire octopus into the water. Chef Olivella told us he didn't know why it worked, but it does, so that's how he boils octopus. For this dish, potatoes were also boiled, and that involved an interesting technique as well. The potatoes were placed in a pot and just covered with water. Then, as much as two cups of salt was added to the water, and the water was boiled until it evaporated. When the water evaporated, the potatoes were cooked and well-seasoned. The octopus legs were chopped into small pieces which were tossed with the potatoes and olive oil, and all was sprinkled with pimenton.

The next dish was very simple to prepare, but its fresh flavors jumped off the plate. It was a simply seared piece of tuna that had been crusted with a mix of crushed black, red, Jamaican, and Sichuan peppercorns. Both cherry tomatoes and roma tomatoes that had been skinned, seeded, and diced were sauteed in olive oil with basil leaves, and that mixture garnished the sliced tuna. The basil was intensified by the brief cooking and combined with the tomatoes for a bright, herbal note on top of the pepper seared tuna.

Our last dish of the evening, which was also the crowd favorite, was seafood paella. There were ooh's and aah's as the rice began to cook in the paella pan and the seafood was added. Chef Olivella spoke about the various rice dishes from Spain and how paella is traditional to Valencia but all regions of Spain have come to adopt the dish. There are many versions of paella and many other rice dishes that are similar but might not be called paella. The most important thing about the dish is the rice. Chef Olivella said, "Paella is all about the rice. Don't make paella with bad rice. You can't make paella with Uncle Sam rice." We all got a good laugh and realized he meant to say "Uncle Ben's rice." The point was clear. Arborio is a good alternative, but if you can find a Spanish rice, you should use it. I remember the last time I was planning to make paella, I searched all over town for Spanish bomba rice with no luck. For this special event, Central Market has a couple of special Spanish rices for sale in the stores, and right after class I ran downstairs to grab a bag of bomba. Hopefully, this will become a very popular product, and they'll continue to carry it. To make the paella, first a sofrito of onion, bell pepper, garlic, and some chopped fish was cooked slowly for several minutes to develop a flavor base. More olive oil was added, and then the rice was stirred into the mixture and cooked. Fish stock was added and allowed to cook down and be absorbed by the rice a bit. Shrimp, mussels, scallops, and chopped fish were added on top. Last, the paella pan was placed in the oven for a few minutes to dry the rice. It was a delightful, seafood-filled dish, and the flavors had permeated each grain of rice.

I left the class having learned some new things about Spanish cuisine, having enjoyed a few Spanish wines, and having a new sense of jealousy for the fabulous seafood both fresh and preserved that's available in Spain. Now, I'm hoping I'll one day have more options here when I go shopping for salt cod.

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