Monday, January 5, 2009

We Want Food - Spaghetti con le sarde

When I was a kid as my father and I waited for my poor, put-upon mother to bring the chow to the table, we would display our appreciation for her culinary devotion and care by banging our forks and knives on the table and chanting "We want food. We want food." (This was after I had outgrown my love of creating long silverware narratives, wrapping napkins around my forks and pretending that they were the girls to the masculine knives. I would never have subjected my utensil friends to such jostling, but once safely out of this stage, I happily banged away.)

But I digress. In honor of those childhood dinners, I am launching a new feature here on Food on the Frontal Lobe. A periodic examination of recipes I'm trying for my favorite meal of the day - dinner. (well let's be honest, it's a four way tie - breakfast, lunch, and brunch are pretty good too - oh and who doesn't love a late night snack...)

The first entry - Spaghetti con le sarde

I'd recently read a mouthwatering review of a restaurant in NY that specializes in this Sicillian pasta dish, and I wanted to try my hand at it. I couldn't find a recipe that seemed perfect, so I combined a few, focusing particularly on one from NYT magazine and one from Food and Wine. The end result was truly thrilling - I think one of the most complexly flavored, sophisticated dishes I've made in a long time. The textures and flavors were surprising and rich, and the sardines were in no way overpowering. Delicious.

Here's the recipe (the measurements are not precise, I went with the pinch system):

Pasta con le sarde
-1/2 C bread crumbs
-olive oil
-1/4 C grated parmesean (this is controversial; Italians don't like to mix cheese with fish pasta)
-1/2 C dry white wine
-a few handfuls of dried currants
-red pepper flakes
-one fennel bulb (finely chopped)
-fennel seeds
-2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
-1/2 large yellow onion (finely chopped)
-1 can diced tomatoes (some liquid drained)
-2 cans of skinless, boneless sardines (drained and pulled apart with a fork)
-1/4 C toasted pine nuts
-spaghetti (I used whole wheat because I'm a heathen)

1) soak the currants and hot pepper flakes in the white wine
2) heat some olive oil and add the bread crumbs, stir frequently for about five minutes until golden, place in a bowl and set aside; if using, add parmasean and mix in
3) in same pan, add more olive oil, and sautee fennel, seeds; after a few minutes add onions and garlic and salt and pepper to taste; sautee until fennel is a little golden and beginning to be tender (during this step, start boiling your water for pasta; for textural purposes, I would recommend al dente)
4) add tomatoes and allow some of the liquid to cook off
5) add a few spoonfuls of the wine and all of the soaked currents (I also added more pepper flakes at this point)
6) add the sardines and let stew for an additional four minutes or so; add more s&p
7) drain your pasta and put back in pot; gently fold in the sardine mixture and then add most of the bread crumb/cheese mixture and the pine nuts; combine
8) serve in bowls, top with remaining bread crumbs
9) think about what a gourmand you are

Sardine on Foodista

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