Also called sardine rillettes. Sardines are to Mediterraneans what tuna is to most Americans. You say tuna, I say sardines.
The city of Safi in Morocco has the largest sardine port in the world. And we grew up eating them, so this helps explain why I love them in every shape or form, fresh grilled or in tajines (this is a very unfrequent treat here, alas). We eat them canned in sandwiches, in sardine spread, added to pasta and pizza. I even put them in potato salad! Here’s my absolute favorite sardine brand.
If I could think of a few ingredients that get the stepchild treatment in this country, sardines would be one of them. In my homeland we treat them like a major delicacy and give them pride of place!
Just the mention sardines brings a wrinkle to some noses.
When I mention I look for sardines with skin and bones, I get wary, almost hostile looks. Gosh, it’s like if I said I was growing hair on my legs.
How do sardines come to be so underrated in America? Is it their fault that they look so homely, and smell so pungent? Have you tried them in a sandwich or panini with some lettuce and tomato? Try them in this recipe and let me know if they are beginning to grow on you! Please don’t recoil from the skin and bones, and whatever you do don’t discard any of it: You won’t see them in the finished sardine spread. Plus that’s where all the flavor and nutrition are so you will enjoy them immensely.
Sardine Spread is a Snap!
You will whip up this dish in minutes. Talk about Gastronomie Sans Argent! When we can’t have Duck Rillettes, we whip up Sardine Rillettes in no time and for pennies. I love to see the humble and neglected sardine get so brilliantly vindicated! You will love it on canapes, as a spread on apple or cucumber slices. It’s also great as a sandwich filling, with some added lettuce leaves and tomato slices, or as a dip. Top the canapes with tiny gherkins or capers.
No added salt anywhere please!
Canned sardines and tuna can often err on the salty side. Even the sardines marked low sodium have enough seasoning. So don’t even add a smidgen of salt.
Sardine Spread Hand Rolls
I have included here a hand roll variation, which makes for a dramatic presentation.
Fantastic on whole grain focaccia or baguette, with added lettuce and tomato.
- 1 can sardines in oil, skin on, bones in, undrained
- 1/3 cup tehina paste
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 1 medium jalapeño, minced
- 4 scallions, sliced very thin
Place the sardines and their liquids in a bowl. Add all but last ingredient, and mash with a fork until smooth but still a little chunky. Stir in the scallions. keep refrigerated in a pint glass jar. Serve at room temperature.
Makes a good 4 servings
Variation: Hand Rolls.
A funky and easy take on spicy tuna hand rolls. Make the exact same spread, and bulk it up with alfalfa sprouts and finely chopped watercress, or some cooked brown rice. Use the filling for nori hand rolls