” A Dark, Delicious Dinner”

Featured blog on foodpress.com today, 1/3/2011.

Late January is a dark time. The sky is dark, night comes early, the garden lies fallow. Food-wise it is a time of little local produce, but it is a time of creativity and a time to embrace a “use what you have in the pantry, or refrigerator”  in my case approach to cooking.

Fresh whole Sardines, purple asparagus, black garlic, lots of citrus & fresh herbs. These all were leftovers from food styling jobs I worked on this past week.

“Sardines Oven-Broiled with Black Garlic, Citrus & Fresh Herbs”

1. I will spare you the images, but the first thing is to gut, clean, rinse and pat the sardines dry. (If you do not know how to gut and clean a fish, grab book or check online for how-to, get a sharp knife,  don your kitchen gloves & get going. It is easy to do, just a bit messy, but worth the trouble.)

2. Place sardines on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Stuff lots of fresh herbs inside the fish. I used dill, thyme, tarragon along fresh mint. Surround fish with cut slices & wedges of oranges & lemons. Sprinkle over all with fresh black pepper and sea salt.

Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease. These fatty acids may also help lower blood sugar levels a small amount. They are also a good source of vitamin DcalciumB12, and protein.

Because they are low in the food chain, sardines are very low in contaminants such as mercury relative to other fish that are commonly eaten by humans.

Black garlic

Black garlic is a type of fermented garlic used as a food ingredient in Asian cuisine. It is made by fermenting whole bulbs of garlic at high temperature, a process that results in black cloves. The taste is sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar or even tamarind.

3. Mash a clove of the black garlic with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Dab this paste over the surface of each sardine. Turn oven to broil. Place oven rack in the bottom half of oven away from heat source.

4. Oven-broil for about 20 minutes depending on your oven. The skin of the sardines will become crispy and darkened and the meat should be flakey.  Fresh sardines are not anything like the canned ones we are all familiar with. The meat is delicate, somewhat sweet and very delicious. This meal is simple & beautiful. Serve hot with a loaf of crusty bread to “sop” up the juices. A bottle of chilled, crisp Pinot Grigio rounded out the meal.

“Purple Asparagus”

First I trimmed the ends. Steamed, salted & peppered with a generous dusting of freshly grated Parmesan cheese these purple gems were fantastic.

Purple asparagus differs from its green and white counterparts, having high sugar and low fibre levels. Purple asparagus was originally developed in Italy and commercialised under the variety name Violetto d’Albenga. Since then, breeding work has continued in countries such as the United States and New Zealand.

“Winter Blackberries”

Keeping with my theme of leftovers and what seems to be a rather “dark dinner”, for dessert just fresh blackberries that were very plump and sweet right from the carton.

One of the great things about being a food stylist is that there is often wonderful foods left over from jobs which I get to bring home. The crew shares in this bounty and I hope everyone involved in the process appreciates it as much as I do. This was my first time to cook fresh Sardines and as much as I like the canned variety, these were not those! Purple Asparagus, Blackberries in winter…one lucky lady am I.