Category Archives: anchovies

My Take on Pissaladière for Sweet November

This is my recent take on the great French classic, Pissaladière.Piss – what?’ Correction: ‘pissala’ (deriving from either Ligurian piscialandreaor Occitan pissaladiera) was a paste made of the salted baby anchovies used in the recipe at the time of its inception when a big part of Southern France was in Italian possession. This explains why it is pizza rather than bread. Despite the fact that you will have a fisherman breath while eating it, pissaladière is an incredibly tasty and addictive meal or snack. Originating from the Nice (yep, from no less than The Côte d’Azur) and relatively unknown few decades ago, pissaladière is slowly but steadily becoming more and more popular all over the world as a unique and comforting kind of pizza, which by its savory characteristics can only come close to the classic French onion soup (although the anchovies and black olives addition in this pizza make a strong salty-savoury punch to otherwise gently sweet caramelized onion in this dish).

Pissaladière is an easy crowd pleaser (specifically for those who like caramelized onions, cheese and olives). Not to mention it’s a very low budget fare, so if your fridge is empty, or you feel destitute for this or that reason, this easy to pull off pizza can comfort you within less than 30 minutes. It is also a great idea for a vegetarian cocktail or potluck party.

I used the fresh goat feta cheese we procured at La Chevriere de Monnoir goat farm because it was so good (gently sweet and moderately salty), it really had to be showcased. I also made two kinds of this pizza: one with anchovies on a side (making it a pure caramelized onion and goat cheese tart) and the one with anchovies in (making it a true pissaladière style). 

It’s November already, the gloomiest month of the year, with its heavy leaden sky, moonless nights, violent gusts of wind and down-pouring torrents of cold rain – all pushing the cheerful October leaves into desolation and death, leaving the trees and hedges sad and homeless.  However, it’s exactly the November sky that makes this month so present, with its infinite vastness and its temper. It becomes a giant canvas that imprints the weather’s mood swings striking the eyes so vividly:

From dull and gray…

To layer cake like colors, changing its ‘high austerity to delight’…

Back to heavy leaden and bright with occasional windows of the light, spanning their beams across the naked fields as if trying to vacuum the last drop of life from the nature…

To peaceful and pastoral again, like in this image taken at the goat farm…

November sky has always been an inspiration to many of great artists depicting it in their masterpieces (although a friend of mine has a theory it was simply because there were no more bugs and mosquitoes to disturb them from their work). Well, I incline to believe it’s inspirational…

Flock of Sheep at Pasture by Aelbert Cuyp, 1655
November in general is inspirational in many ways, including to our appetite, which grows almost proportional to the dropping temperatures, leaving us craving for this or that comfort food. Pissaladière(or French pizza if you want) is one of those fall comfort foods for me.  I always make it in November and it makes my November sweet and cozy. Not surprisingly, after I bought all types of cheese at La Chevriere de Monnoir, I decided to apply one of them to the featured twist. What a wonderful marriage of tastes you have in the result! Salty-sour- tangy-aromatic-crunchy and soooo gently savory sweeet: a real dance the taste buds weary of pumpkin and squash.
Tips for the first time onion caramelizing:  
Slice the onions as thin as possible (sharpening the knife is always a good idea).
Use the scratch-less, non-stick skillet, OR be ready to use much more oil to prevent burning the onions.
Begin with medium-high heat and the minimum amount of oil, lowering the heat progressively as the onions begin to brown.
Do not leave the onions unattended for longer than 2-3 minutes, or they will burn.
Don’t forget to include garlic and thyme (fresh or dried) in the process – these two ingredients are crucial for the final taste result.
A splash of dry wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar in the final minutes would add an extra layer of taste and a nice touch of sourness to the onions.
The layer of onions spread on the pizza should be half as thick as the crust.

As for the pizza dough, which I’ve tried many, and can tell you that this recipe is really foolproof and the best one for me. As long as you have a working yeast, it always, always works, so please take a 
note of it.

Well, thank you all for reading this post. I hope you will have fun making your own pissaladière and my recipe will be of help. For now I’m just going to eat another piece. Oooops, it’s gone in less than a minute. Well tried and tested and highly recommended for your own sweet November. The Enya’s gem song might as well put you in the mood.
Sweet November Everyone!

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PISSALADIERE: CARAMELIZED ONION PIZZA WITH GOAT CHEESE, BLACK OLIVES AND ANCHOVIES
Yields 6 portions
Ingredients:
1 pizza dough (see this recipe for the foolproof homemade pizza dough, OR use store-bought) 
1 tbsp cornmeal for dusting
4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzle
2 lbs onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp thyme, fresh or dried
1 big splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of pitted black olives, halved
3 oz (2/3 cup) goat cheese feta, crumbled
8 salted anchovies fillets (rinsed and patted dry if baked in) (optional)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the pizza stone in the middle of the oven (if using). Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a flat round or rectangular shape. Transfer the dough to baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Cover the dough with plastic or a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet to medium-high. Add onions, mix vigorously and lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle with thyme. Keep mixing every other minute. Add garlic and mix. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes until the moisture has evaporated and the onions caramelized to almost a marmalade consistency. Add a splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar. Stir and evaporate for the next 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove plastic or cloth from dough, brush with 1 tablespoon of oil and spread the onion mixture, leaving ¾ inch border all around. Arrange cheese, olives and anchovy fillets (if using) over the onions, then slide onto the hot pizza stone (if using) or onto the middle rack of the oven. Bake pizza for 18-20 minutes, or until the crust has browned. Remove from the oven, cut into wedges and serve warm or at the room temperature.

A-Maize-N Corn Sandwiches (Arepas) with Guasacaca Sauce

First there was a cracker. Then nachos came from South of the Texan border some 50 years ago and the North American snack was re-defined forever. One of the perks of living in multicultural society is that today you can discover endless variety of comforting ethnic foods almost on a daily basis in any given big city. Take arepa, for example, the crispy corn flat bread originating from Venezuela and Colombia. Delicious and highly versatile in stuffing it makes a great gluten-free bread/sandwich alternative, a vegetarian trouvaille (catch) and nice and fresh step away from the usual boring food. You can make arepas in minutes during busy weeknights and kids just adore them. They are perfect to combine with any sandwich ingredients and most of the warm recipes of the fall and can be served as an appetizer, side, school lunch, main dish or a snack. Arepas also make wonderful party or potluck food on a budget with some pulled meats you can prepare ahead separately. Few years ago though I didn’t even know this food existed.

One sunny end-of-summer day, in a happy turn of events, we hopped sideways of the bustling St-Denis street of Montreal and discovered a tiny hole-in-the-wall Venezuelan eatery Arepera The place offered plethora of tasty corn flour cakes with all kinds of fillings at more than affordable prices. Ten minutes of waiting time (this place is actually quite popular in the neighbourhood) and we stepped into the little arepas heaven filled with the smell of the freshly pan-fried corn cakes and garlicky guasacaca (famous avocado & herb sauce to go with arepas). The Spanish-speaking buzz and background percussion of maracas instantly teleported us to some hot place in Venezuela. The hearty ambiance along with friendly and fast service made us fully enjoy the charred and crispy on top, fluffy and soft inside corn cakes stuffed with authentic vegetarian (black beans, avocado and fresh queso) and pulled chicken (pollo guisado) arepas with some fried plantain slices (tajadas), extra queso on a side.  We made a mental note to come back and try more things (not-surprisingly, this Arepera is consistently well-rated on the Tripadvisor). 

As you know already, I have a proclivity to test my kitchen skills every time I try some new exciting dish, so, naturally, upon few more visits to Arepera I was ready to make them a home. I googled the recipe of arepas and found the Areparinaspecial pre-cooked corn flour (P.A.N. corn flour in the US) used to make arepas in the nearest Walmart ($2.69 per 2 lbs). Fresh queso blanco cheese was harder to find, so I used the squeaky curd cheese in place of traditional queso (cottage and ricotta cheeses would be other close alternatives) and later even regular cheddar or mozzarella. Easy, fast and as delicious as any best street food can be. And they came out perfect from the first time! Even the ones I took a minimal effort to put a piece of cheese inside turned into super-savory patties with irresistible pan-fried crisp crust (the reason these little babies will always be a hit with diners).

Keep cooked arepas warm in a 300F oven as you prepare the next batch. Double or triple the amount of ingredients accordingly if you need to feed more people.  Serve with traditional avocado sauce or guacamole or just the dollop of sour cream.  For a more spicy adornment, feel free to use the lentil avocado spread, or salsa verde, or buttermilk sauce, or lime avocado mayo which I posted previously – all of them go very well with the neutral arepas taste.

Simply put, you can stuff arepas with almost any kind of sandwich layers or leftovers, from omelet to pulled meats, to bacon, to ham, to cheese, to shrimp, to fish and of course all their vegetarian equivalents.  Here is a nice and quirky graphic poster by Sorelis Liendo I found on Pinterest on the most popular kinds of arepas in Venezula with their names and ingredients in Spanish (funny, the one without stuffing is called a widow).  

Top Left: Infografía de “La Arepa” (vía @Sorelys Liendo)
Over time my experiments with arepas stuffing have stretched to umami fusion twists like the ones with roasted (pulled) duck, lobster or anchovies.

The party favorites are of course pulled meat arepas. Try the ones with the pulled pork recipeor the veal/beef pulled blade roast turned into Cuban Ropa Vieja, all of which I posted last year, and the famous Guasacaca avocado sauce (below).

Oh my, I think I’ve exaggerated my writing quota today (to compensate for my temporary absence). Are you still there or have I long lost you to the Facebook gossips? Anyways, if you are a nachos lover and like to have something different from time to time, I’m sure you will be positively surprised to discover how they can soothe you with the simple joy of street comfort food. 

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VENEZUELAN CORN SANDWICHES (AREPAS) with GUASACACA SAUCE
Yields: 12 to 18 arepas (3 to 4 inch sizes)
Ingredients:
For Arepas:
2 cups pre-cooked cornmeal mazarepa (such as Areparina, or P.A.N. varieties)
2 ½ cups very hot (but not boiling) water
3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing and cooking
¾ tsp sea salt
For Guasacaca Sauce
2 small or 1 big avocado, peeled and seeded
1 small onion or shallot, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, shelled
2 serrano or jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
½ bunch fresh parsley leaves
½ bunch fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
Mix the pre-cooked corn meal with salt, add water and oil and stir for a minute until the mixture comes together. Cover with plastic or wet towel and set aside for 10-20 minutes. Note: you can make this mix up to two days ahead of cooking and keep it in the fridge till ready to cook.
Scoop around 1/3 cup of the mix and use your hands to form a ball and then flatten it into the round disc. If using cheese, insert a square (1×1 inch) slice of cheese inside the disc closing well on the sides. Pre-heat the cast iron (or equivalent non-stick frying pan) skillet to medium high. Brush each corn disc with oil on both sides and once skillet cook the arepas for 7 to 10 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Keep cooked arepas warm in 300F oven while you make another batch.
For the guasacaca sauce, place the avocado, onion, garlic, pepper, vinegar and lime juice in the blender and pulse few times until the mixture is smooth. Add cilantro, parsley, oil, salt and pepper and give it a few other pulses. Scoop the sauce into a non-reactive bowl and check the seasoning. Cover and keep in the fridge till ready to use.
Open the warm arepas with a paring knife on the side to make sliders and fill them with the stuffing of your choice (pulled meats, eggs, beans, cheese, grilled veggies, etc.). Top with generous drizzle of guasacaca sauce and a sprinkle of crumbled cotija cheese (or Parmesan or Greek feta).

In Search for Umami: Salt Cod & Tuna Fish Cakes


I made these savory crispy fish cakes during holidays and served them as tapas on Quebec National Day along with three sauces. Later, on Canada day, I made another batch from frozen leftovers and toted them as fish tacos to the ‘Potluck with Style’ party along with tortillas, assortment of fresh garden veggies, Aioli sauce and lime avocado mayo. They were a huge hit on both occasions and everyone kept asking me for the recipe. Bring a box of these babies to your next potluck party and you can easily come off as a promising young chef from l’Academie, because, I can guarantee, they WILL upstage any food party. 

Salt cod is one the most under appreciated and underused foods in our country.  Despite its magical flavor powers that can bring most of the dishes with this ingredient to a whole new level, and its availability in almost every grocery; a dirty looking piece of something-dried, covered with gray salt is not very visually appealing.  That, plus a very little knowledge of how handle it and/or lack of publicity, keep this valuable commodity in the ‘underdog’ category of foods reserved for the limited consumption by Natives and/or just a few high-end French, Portuguese or Spanish restaurants. Nobody is serving accrass de morue or pasteis de bacalhau in the fast food joints, like they do it in Carribean or in Portugal although, technically, Canada has been one of the major producers of salt cod for the last 500 years. The Old World, however, has been enjoying salt cod for centuries. The famous epicureans like Claude Monet or Paul Cezanne, for example, used to stash the recipes with this precious ingredient in their diaries as their best kept culinary secrets to impress each other.

Dishes with salt cod are in the category of an acquired taste and people usually love or hate them. Here’s the thing: if you like Parmesan, cured meats, anchovies, oysters, soya sauce asparagus, tomatoes, etc. chances are you are going to like these fish cakes big time because of the umami factor apparent in all these foods. The naturally occurring amino acid in salt cod (called umami) is what makes it so tasty and unique. And if you have a hard time with umami, you can always swap the salt cod for canned tuna or salmon and still have very palatable cakes, although with not much umami in them.

A quick, but useful trivia: about a century ago Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda discovered chemical root behind the fifth sensory taste (in addition to salty, sweet, bitter, sour) and called it umami (which translates from Japanese into ‘deliciousness’). The common component producing the flavor of meat, seaweed and tomatoes was glutamate, which gives the sensation of umami. Not surprisingly, Ikeda further patented the manufacture of an arguably infamous Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) food flavor enhancer.

Back to our fish cakes. Once you’ve tripped over the initial shock of actually buying this ‘thing’ (salt cod) and had it rinsed from salt and soaked for 24-48 hours, you are just a few steps away from making this mouth-watering treat. Mashed potatoes, milk, egg, chives, garlic, thyme, cornmeal and frying oil are basically all you need to add to prestidigitate the ‘thing’ into something amazing. It’s completely optional, but this time I added a can of tuna to the mix to make it exactly one pound in fish ingredient without altering the taste. Feel free to make it half & half (salt cod & canned tuna or salmon) and it will still be equally delicious. I also added 1/3 teaspoon of smoked paprika to deepen the flavor depth even further with the touch of heat and smokiness. Finally, I figured that umamiwith umami can only work out for good, so I added 2 tablespoons of fresh Parmesan crumbs to the mix.

Voila, now you can savor the best thing that can ever happen to salt cod. Enjoy them as tapas with variety of sauces like:  classic Aioli sauce, zesty Tkemali plum sauce, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise, Buttermilk sauce, even Herb Lentil Avocado Spread.

My latest favorite is to dress them in tacos, laced with one of the above sauces and garnished with a mountain of thinly sliced summer bounty, including: cabbage, radishes, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, shallots, onion, lettuce, fine herbs, etc. Just have a bunch of corn (for gluten-free) or whole wheat flour tortillas, warm up wrapped in foil for 15 minutes at 375F and serve immediately with some refreshing drinks. Fish tacos allow the cakes to shine with their intriguing umami taste combined with textures and captivating colors of artfully embedded crunchy veggies and tangy sauce. Simply out of this world!

And if you want something absolutely lean and/or diet-healthy (from Paleo to Gluten-free to Carb, Sugar or Elimination diet) go for the lettuce wrap option and the dish will never trigger any guilt alarms – just pure joy and pleasure.

All good to the last bite, hot or cold!

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SALT COD & CANNED TUNA FISH CAKES
Serves: 8 to 10 people.
Ingredients:
1 lb skinned & boned salt cod (or half & half of 1 lb of salt cod and canned tuna)
1 cup of milk
1 bay leaf
3 big Idaho or Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ cup 10% cream for mashing potatoes
4 tbsp butter at room temperature for mashing potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch of fresh chives or scallions, minced
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced (optional)
1/3 tsp smoked hot paprika (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
oil for frying (sunflower, canola, peanut or grape seed oil)
4 tbsp butter or ghee for frying (optional)
2 cups corn meal for coating
Lemon or lime wedges for serving
Instructions:
Soak the salt cod in cold water to cover in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours changing the water occasionally.
Drain the salt cod and place it in a saucepan, cover with milk, add bay leaf. Add water if necessary to cover the fish. Bring to boil and simmer over the low heat for 12-15 minutes or until the fish flakes with fork easily. Do not overcook. Transfer the fish to a plate and let cool.
In a separate saucepan bring potatoes to boil and simmer until tender for 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, mash them with cream and butter. Let cool.
Using your fingers or a fork flake the cod (check for the occasional bones, although most of the time it’s bones-free).
Combine the cod, drained tuna, mashed potato, garlic, chives, egg, Parmesan, thyme, smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix it with masher or hands.
Use 1 full tablespoon of the mixture to form a ball, press and coat well with corn meal. Set aside while making remaining cakes. Refrigerate fish cakes until chilled for 10-30 minutes*.  
Preheat the skillet to medium high. Add 2 tablespoons of frying oil and 1 tablespoon of butter for each batch. Pan-fry in batches for about 2-3 minutes each side or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Check the seasoning. Serve with lemon or lime wedges, classic Aioli sauce, zesty Tkemali plum sauce, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise, Buttermilk sauce, Herb Lentil Avocado Spread or other sauce of your choice. You can also serve them in fish tacos wrapped in warmed up corn/whole wheat tortillas, laced with one of the above sauces and dressed with thinly sliced vegetables, such as:cabbage, radishes, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, shallots, onion, lettuce, fine herbs, etc.
*Freeze them on the cutting board if making the dish in advance. When frozen, transfer cakes to Ziploc bag or plastic container and keep in a freezer for up to 1 month. Let thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before frying. Re-coat in cornmeal if necessary for the crispy crust.

Pasta con le Sarde

Lo Jacono: Palermo; Fonds Ancely: Arrivée des marchandes de sardines; Old Map – Wikimedia.

This post will conclude my bolero with sardines. By now you are probably no longer surprised with my most strange obsession (especially considering how many people hate this fish), thinking: ‘’The woman went nuts and is probably now walking the fish market daily whispering to sardines…’’ or that I might soon become like this guy
The truth is simple though. We recently visited new Sicilian restaurant Scarpetta (at 4525 avenue du Parc in Plateau, Montreal) and I was very much impressed with their food and service, especially with chef’s (Monick Gilles) Pasta con Sarde alla Palermitana.  It was really different, exotic and tasted nothing like any pasta I ever tried before.  Inspired, I googled for the classic recipe of the dish and soon found myself in the kitchen gutting a pile of fresh sardines again (see the tips in sardine: part I). 

And, since I promised you to post this recipe during my last sardine adventure, here you are. This is an authentic Sicilian dish created during (over 200-years) invasion by Saracens (Moors). It combines typically Sicilian ingredients including: pasta, sardines, pine nuts, wild fennel and saffron in an extremely tasty and different twist.

In the island of Sicily they add some briny cured fish roe (from tuna, swordfish or grey mullet) called bottarga to spice up the dish, which in our case, is substituted with anchovies. Upgrade your pasta to whole wheat if you want or, for gluten-free version, feel free to use gluten-free pasta, crumbs and fish dusting. The result will still be uber-delicious, since the devil is in the sardine-fennel sauce.
I wholeheartedly recommend this dish to any curious, open-minded and adventurous cooking enthusiast (and/or sardines’ lover).

Lois- Auguste Veillon: Les pêcheurs de la région de Naples – Wikimedia

Buono Appetito!
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PASTA CON LE SARDE (Pasta with Sardines)
Yields: 6-8 servings.
Ingredients:
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
4-6 tbsp olive oil
6 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1 lb (500 g) fresh sardine fillets
2 tbsp plain flour or semolina, for dusting fish
½ cup sultanas (small raisins)
½ cup pine nuts
Pinch of saffron
50 ml dry white wine
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ½ tbsp. tomato puree
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
1 lb pasta, such as bucatini, maccheroncini or spagetti
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Few springs of fennel greens (or parsley) for garnish
Instructions:
Soak saffron in white wine.

In a large frying pan heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring until golden, for about 5 minutes. Remove the crumbs and toss with Parmesan. Set aside.
Bring a big pot of water (8 cups) to boil and boil sliced fennel for about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve the boiling liquid.
Dust half of the fish with semolina or flour (I used cornmeal). Heat the skillet with 1tbsp. olive oil and fry sardines turning once until browned. Set aside for garnish.

Heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a skillet and sauté anchovies and onions over medium heat for about 2 minutes, or until anchovies start to turn into paste and the onions become translucent. Add fennel and sauté for 5 minutes. Add pine nuts, raisins, salt and pepper and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
In a separate skillet, heat the remaining olive oil to medium high and add the rest of the sardines. Crush them in chunks with spatula as they cook. After 2 minutes, add saffron with wine, garlic and parsley. Mix well, stir for another 2 minutes and add salt and pepper. Set aside.
Boil pasta until aldente using fennel water (add extra water for boiling as per instructions of the package). Drain. Put in the bowl and dress with half the sardine sauce.
Put a layer of dressed pasta in an ovenproof casserole. Top with a layer of sardine sauce, layer of fennel sauce and then another layer of pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan breadcrumbs. Cover and bake for 15 minutes at 350F. Serve hot or cold garnished with extra fried sardines, fennel springs or chopped parsley.

Adapted from: Sicily Food and Cookery, Phaidon, 2013

Say Sardine: Part II

This is one of my all-time dinner favorites: Canned Sardines Pasta Bolognese.  Easy, inexpensive, utterly delicious + HEALTHY (quick reminder: not only sardines are a super-food, packed with omega-3 fatty acids, iron and B vitamins; because they are short-lived, they don’t accumulate pollutants in their bodies). A little tribute to the humble canned sardines which seem to be making their come back in the last few years. 

Yesterday we had one of those nights when everyone was just zombie-dead exhausted:  time when it’s good to make a nourishing familiar dish you’re so used to cook you can almost make it blindfolded. I have a short list of such dishes and this one is one of them.  I’ve been doing it for so long I don’t even have to switch on my brain: my hands kick into gear for me! 
The origin of the dish table travels me straight to Tuscany. It was one of those summers, which almost never happens in a normal human’s life. When all we had to do (with my best friend) was wandering around the hottest Italian destinations, trying exotic food and practicing the basics of Italian. Almost like Eat, Pray, Love, except we were students in our early twenties and money or responsibility was not an issue (or so we thought) and we did not pray much.  We settled in the picturesque town of Livorno in one of those cute houses on Piazza Grande next to Duomo. 
One day we decided to cook a rabbit with olives and white wine, but forgot to lower the oven temperature and left for a day to visit the Capri Island (what were we thinking?) …  When we returned six hours later, there were a lot of pompieres (firefighters) around the house. One carabiniere(policeman) was carrying out with an outstretched hand our charred skillet with almost crystallized pitch black rabbit emanating a lot of smoke. We wondered whether to laugh or cry… Fortunately, there was no other damage (otherwise I would probably be now writing this in Italian), except lots of smoke in the house.  
Photo Credit: Irene Sirenko
We stayed up late moving our stuff to the other part of the house which was not touched by the smoke. Everything was already closed and our stomachs were growling.  The lady of the house had a pity on us and made us this quick canned sardine pasta Bolognese which she served with some cheap red wine. Our ‘’soiree’’ kicked off at 11p.m. and this was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in life. I couldn’t believe that one can actually turn a can of plain sardines into this blissful fishy extravaganza! Naturally, I took notes of the recipe and have been making the dish for many years, although I haven’t seen it in any books of Italian recipes so far.
This is exactly a 15 minutes prep dish, which you can upgrade using whole wheat pasta and number of additions like: lemon zest, capers, olives, toasted crumbs, etc. I noticed even non-pescetarians quite often love this dish.

But what if you are a proud Sicilian or just a bit finicky to eat this quick adaptation and would still prefer the real pasta con le sarde?  Then you will have to read my next post. Cheers!

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CANNED SARDINES PASTA BOLOGNESE
Ingredients:
1 pound spaghetti (or your choice of pasta)
2 cans of sardines in olive oil, drained and mashed with fork
¼ cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
6 anchovies, rinsed and minced
½ cup tomato coulis (or tomato sauce)
1-2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Zest & juice of ½ lemon (optional)
1 tbsp capers (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:
Cook pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Meanwhile, heat the skillet with olive oil, add chili flakes and garlic and cook on medium high for 1-2 minutes. Add minced anchovies and give them a stir mashing them with spatula for 1 minute. Add parsley and mashed sardines. Once the mix sizzles, add tomato coulis (or sauce) and sauté for another few minutes. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and capers and mix well. Reserve some sardine sauce to garnish. When pasta is done, drain and add to the skillet with the sardine mixture. Toss well and serve immediately garnished with extra sauce and parmesan or pecorino and toasted bread on a side. Enjoy!