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I love sardine sandwiches. Always have. I learned how to make them from my mom. She used red onion, some mustard, some lettuce, and always a robust whole grain wheat bread. So I was pleased to see two version of the sandwich honored recently in The Sandwich Issue of SAVEUR Magazine and delighted to fine both versions were provided by Michael Colameco, an engaging and knowledgeable New York City food writer and broadcaster.
The moment was right and the version with the horseradish mayonnaise caught my eye. A can of slightly smoked Portuguese sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil was sitting in my cupboard ready to go. Next to the sardines was a jar of imported roasted red peppers from Italy. With some improvisation in the making of the horseradish cream and a quick switch from lettuce to arugula, I put together my amateur’s version. But I stayed with the whole wheat bread. We never used rye bread when I was growing up in California. And it is heresy to admit this, but I have never really developed a taste for rye despite the great selection that is now available to me living in New York.
My amateur version is detailed below. For Chef Mike’s version, check out SAVEUR #137 The Sandwich Issue for his Sardine Sandwich with Horseradish Cream.
makes 2 open faced sandwiches
330 calories per serving
2 to 4 pieces thinly sliced red onion (30g)
2 tablespoons (30g) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon (1.6g) horseradish powder dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
2 large pieces (100g) multi grain or whole grain wheat bread
10 arugula leaves (20g), trimmed and washed
4 ¼ ounce tin sardines (120g), packed in oil and drained
1 piece roasted red pepper (85g) cut into slices
Incorporate the horseradish powder into the mayonnaise about 20 minutes before assembling the sandwich and keep refrigerated. Assemble the rest of the ingredients. Toast the bread. Start by spreading the horseradish sauce on the toasted bread. Place the arugula leaves and sliced onion on next. Remove the sardines from the tin, divide in half, and arrange on top of the onion slices. Now garnish with the slices of roasted red pepper. Finish with some black pepper and an optional dash of salt.
There are many good nutrition based reasons to enjoy this sardine sandwich. In return for slightly “unhealthy” levels of fat and sodium, you get exceptionally “healthy” levels protein and fiber, an impressive array of vitamins and minerals, and a respectable amount of omega-3 fatty acids. This one really needs to be put in a manageable context. When going out to a diner or a deli, comparatively speaking the sardine sandwich is one of the healthiest items on the menu. When deciding between a tuna sandwich or a sardine sandwich, the sardine sandwich definitely has the edge.
How to determine when the risks out way the benefits continues to be a raging debate. There is a saying I heard first in the business world but which, I have just discovered, can actually be attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire: The perfect is the enemy of the good. I am beginning to wish the nutrition experts were better read in Enlightenment philosophy.
Per Serving (162g): Calories 320, Fat 19g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Sodium 630mg, Carbohydrate 18g, Fiber 5g, Protein 17g.
Excellent Source: protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B12.
Good Source: iron, niacin.
makes 2 cups
150 calories per serving
This complex richly flavored dish is best balanced against a simple braised protein like fish or served on its own as an appetizer. A robust, loose leaf spinach works best, but sometimes this spinach can be hard to find. I am lucky enough to have a local grocer who carries the real thing all year round. And since I live in New York City, that means shipping spinach in from California or Texas when local product is not available. Alternatives are bagged, pre-washed, or hydroponically grown spinach. For me the taste and texture of the real thing are worth it, but it is a personal decision. Waiting for local product would have reduced the cost, but what can I say. I was impatient!
Spinach grows best in sandy soil and each leaf requires washing several times to remove any little pieces of grit that may have lodged in the crevices. So spinach whether transported or grown locally can be time consuming. My first encounter with the combination of spinach, nuts, and fruit was in Claudia Rodin’s wonderful book The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Her version calls for pine nuts but I use walnuts. I always have a few walnuts on hand and I prefer the taste.
1 ⅓ pound spinach as purchased fresh and untrimmed (600g)
1 whole shallot (65g) peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (15ml)
¼ teaspoon flake salt
4 tablespoons chopped walnuts (30g), about 6 walnuts as purchased in shell
2 tablespoons currants (30g)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (15ml)
2 teaspoon first cold pressed olive oil (10ml)
Trim stems and roots from the spinach, wash thoroughly, chop into large pieces, and spin dry in a salad spinner. Remove walnuts from shell and chop. Refresh currants by covering with hot water and letting them soften for about 10 minutes. Assemble other ingredients.
Sauté scallions in olive oil using a sauté pan that comes with a cover and is large enough to hold all the spinach. When the shallots have softened and turned translucent, add balsamic vinegar and let most of it evaporate. Then add the chopped walnuts, softened currants, and finally the spinach, pressing the spinach down into the pan. Do not add any additional water. Cover and leave over low heat until the spinach softens into a mass. Incorporate the walnuts and currant evenly into the spinach and finish with remaining cold pressed olive oil. Tastes as good at room temperature as it does served hot.
The experts agree that spinach is a healthy food. A dark green vegetable as per MyPyramid. A source of essential micro-nutrients as per Nutrition Facts Label. The experts however do not agree about fat. Using olive oil in classic proportions will always exceed the austere requirement of 3 grams per serving* required by the FDA to label a preparation “healthy.” The role of fat in the diet, especially unsaturated fats and oils, is becoming controversial and consensus has not been reached yet.
My friends and family take a liberalized approach to fats and olive oil and devour my spinach faster as I can wash the leaves with comments like “I can eat this all day!” If good cooking is the art of creating food people love to eat, than smart cooking is using those skills to encourage people to eat healthy food. So wouldn’t that mean that olive oil is serving a noble purpose? But there I go again – me and my simplistic mind!
Per Serving (114g): Calories 150, Fat 11g, Saturated Fat 1.5g, Sodium 125mg, Carbohydrate 12g, Fiber 3g, Protein 4g.
Excellent source vitamin A as beta-carotene, folate, magnesium.
Good source fiber, vitamin C, calcium, iron, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, vitamin E, potassium.
A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.
As with so many of life’s important decisions, the choice of red, curly, or black kale comes down to your taste, your personal preference, and your pocketbook
Curly kale has broad based deep green leaves and a robust, pungent, fully developed favor. It is cultivated all year long and is easy to pick up in most supermarket chains. Some cooks blanch the leaves first, while others add a grated carrot to the pan to soften and sweeten the somewhat bitter taste.
makes about 2 cups (500ml)
cost $6.00 for black kale / $3.00 for curly kale
160 calories per serving
More exotic and expensive are red kale (pictured on the right) and black kale (pictured on the left). A little milder and a little less pungent, these kales can be found in green markets starting in fall through early winter and in specialty supermarkets all year long. My favorite is cavolo nero or black kale. Alternatively called dinosaur or laciniato kale, this blackish-green leafy kale is favored by the Tuscans who have developed a special affection for its distinctive taste and gnarled appearance. Chicken stock enhances flavor and a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice before serving sharpens the flavor. Check to be sure that excess stock or water has been completely evaporated so the final dish does not weep.
An excellent choice of greens to accompany a ham, a rack of pork, or a roast beef, keep kale in mind as you plan for the upcoming holidays. Each pound (½ kilo) kale as purchased yields 2 to 2½ cups cooked.
2 bunches (15 ounces/430g) curly, red, or black kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped into medium sized pieces
2 tablespoons (25g) extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves (10g) fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
1 – 2 cups (250ml – 500ml) low sodium chicken stock
¼ teaspoon (.7g) flake salt
Lemon juice or Balsamic vinegar
Warm oil in sauté pan and soften crushed garlic. Add kale a handful or two at a time using medium heat and stirring as you add each handful. Sauté the kale until the pieces start to wilt and the oil is evenly distributed, usually about 5 minutes. Add the salt and start adding stock or water a half cup (100ml) at a time. Keep adding the stock until the kale is softened. Keep heat high enough to evaporate each addition of stock. If more liquid is required, use water. Braise the kale for another 20 minutes. Reduce the heat when the kale is softened and all liquid is absorbed or evaporated. Adjust seasonings and finish with some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. At this point, the kale will hold nicely for at least 30 minutes. Check before serving to be sure that excess stock or water has been completely evaporated so the final dish does not weep.
Note: Both piece size and cooking time effect the texture of the final product. The smaller the pieces or the longer the cooking time, the softer and smoother the kale. Start with medium sized pieces and about 20 minutes, then adjust according to taste.
Kale is not cheap, but it is incredible healthy. MyPyramid classifies kale as a dark green vegetable and recommends 2 cups dark greens per week. Whole Foods uses the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) to numerically rate foods and kale is on top with a score of 1000. For those of you like me who love kale and are willing to pay the price, we get both flavor and nutrition with each bite. The question I wrestle with is how to make this incredibly healthy vegetable appealing and acceptable to those of you who do not share my taste for slightly bitter greens. I can’t guarantee success, but I know where to start. A judicious amount of salt, a generous amount of fat, some acid, some culinary expertise, and a few discretionary dollars to invest in healthy greens.
Encouraging more people to eat and enjoy a healthy vegetable like kale is the best kind of healthy eating. So I choose to focus more on the sourcing and cooking end and less on the limits to sodium and fat end. To my simplistic mind, flexing a little on olive oil and salt makes good nutrition sense as long as more people eat more kale.
Per Serving (130g): Calories 160, Fat 13g, Saturated Fat 2.0g, Sodium 240mg, Carbohydrate 8g, Fiber 2g, Protein 3g.
A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.
Summer is coming to an end. The days are getting shorter. A chill in the evening air means an end to summer salad suppers and the beginning of more robust meals. But while summer is still here, a large salad is satisfying, refreshing, and takes about 30 minutes to put together as long as the greens are washed and ready to go. For protein, I use both legumes and canned salmon. Grilled chicken or canned tuna are good substitutes for the salmon. Vegetable ingredients vary depending on what comes in and out of the market during the growing season, but my base always starts with mesclun. I buy weekly from a vendor who lets me mix my own from the many offerings of multi colored, multi textured, slightly bitter leaves. Proportions are for two people. For robust appetites, serve with crusty bread.
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil and yogurt dressing, as per proportions below
7 tablespoons (100 g) canned chickpeas, rinsed, drained
¾ cup (50 g) red cabbage, washed, coarsely shredded
3 ½ cups (100 g) washed mesclun or assorted greens
1 medium (150 g) tomato, washed, cored, coarsely chopped
½ each (75 g) Haas avocado, peeled, seeded, sliced
1 – 6 ounce can (170 g) wild Alaskan pink salmon, canned, drained
Using a bowl with a 2 quart (2 liter) capacity, make a dressing in the bottom of the bowl with 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine or sherry vinegar, 2 tablespoons 0% Greek yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, oregano, basil, pepper, and about 1/4 teaspoon flake salt. Put chickpeas and cabbage in first, then mesclun, then tomato and avocado. Other vegetable options are peppers, fennel, carrots, and cucumbers. Arrange drained salmon on top. Mix salad just before serving.
makes about 6 ½ cups ● cost $12.20 ● 1070 calories
portioning information: 540 calories for 2 people ● 270 calories for 4 people ● 180 calories for 6 people
This salad delivers phytonutrient and fiber rich vegetables, mixed proteins, and oleic acid rich, omega-3 rich, vitamin E rich unsaturated fats. Moreover, I used clean sustainable salmon and a seasonal heirloom tomato. Despite these benefits, the salad cannot be labeled healthy because total fat exceeds acceptable parameters established by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Sodium and saturated fat also exceed acceptable parameters, but are easier to adjust in accordance with current regulations.
Before going back to school, I always made classic vinaigrette – three parts oil to one part vinegar. My studies progressed, I learned about too much fat, and I stopped. Experimenting with other combinations and substitutions became the goal. For example, some variations on classic vinaigrette call for some crème fraîche and yogurt works really well. I even tried fat free salad dressing once … But the classic version kept calling me back because it makes such an elegant delicious product.
Let’s call it the olive oil dilemma. The cook in me says enjoy the salad! Just be careful the cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is what the label says it is. The dietitian in me says maybe it is not quite that simple. The nutrient benefit is significant. The three fat sources in question come from “good” fats and other options are out there. I can run the numbers again adding bread with the meal or fruit and yogurt after the meal. I can manage the impact over the day and plan according. The dietician in me also knows that nutrition research is ongoing so I can continue to scan the literature for new perspectives on total fat in the diet and the value of good fats …
This summer I went classic and kept an eye on my daily calorie count. And with summer coming to an end, I will not have to wrestle with the dilemma again until next year.
Nutrition Facts per ½ cup serving* (g): Calories 160, Fat 12g, Saturated Fat 1.5g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 10mg, Sodium 180mg, Carbohydrate 7g, Fiber 3g, Protein 7g. Vitamin A 30%, Vitamin C 15%, Calcium 2%, Iron 6%. Excellent Source vitamin A, vitamin B12. Good Source vitamin C, protein, fiber, niacin, folate. Natural Source omega-3 fatty acids.
*Serving sizes are reference amounts defined and regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.