The best part about Portuguese cuisine is its simplicity. With the country's long coastline and historical fishing practices, seafood is in abundance. Tinned fish, or conservas, is a Portuguese household staple that has been around for centuries. In the 19th century, led by the 2 great wars, the need for shelf-stable, easy-to-transport, and nutritious food was in high demand. This in turn boosted the practice of Portuguese fish preservation. Since then, the improvements of new canning techniques and seafood products have blossomed.
During June and July, the streets of Lisbon and in towns across Portugal are filled with festivities every night. The streets come alive with locals and tourists alike, creating one big party filled with laughter, drinks, and FOOD! Once the clock strikes midnight, smoke begins to fill the streets. Locals fire up their grills to cook their sardines. They serve the sardines on white bread, which soaks up all the oils and flavors.
A fantastic alternative to fresh sardines are canned sardines. They’re a shelf-stable source of protein and, best of all, are small enough that you can eat the bones! When I'm buying canned sardines, I look for what they are stored in - water, canola, oil, olive oil or even tomato sauce. For the best flavor, I prefer buying sardines in olive oil rather than canola oil or water. Any leftover sardine oil can be used like regular olive oil. Try mixing it into a vinaigrette or drizzling it on toast!
Bell peppers are grilled until completely charred, then peeled, sliced, and tossed in the reserved sardine oil along with parsley, lemon zest and juice. The roasted red peppers add a slightly sweet, smoky flavor. The parsley adds an herbaceous vibe, and the lemon cuts through it all.
Pro Tip: Once your bread is golden brown, rub it with a piece of cut garlic. It'll Infuse your warm bread with all that yummy garlic flavor. Immediately after, layer on your sardines, followed by your red pepper mixture, and top it off with some sliced red onions for an extra tangy and crunchy bite. If the red onion is too pungent, soak them in ice-cold water for a few minutes, this will help get rid of the strong taste. These toasts will hit all your taste buds and may even convert non-sardine lovers.
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- 1 medium red pepper
- 1 can (4.4 ounce) SARDINES SMOKED IN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- Flaky sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 1/2-inch thick slices country bread, gluten-free if desired
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
- 1/ 4 cup thinly sliced red onion
Over a gas stove burner or grill, place red pepper over a medium-high flame to char, rotating the pepper as the sections blacken. Once the pepper has blackened completely, about 20 minutes. Place the pepper in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap to steam. The steam will allow the skin to loosen.
Once pepper is cool enough to touch, remove and discard the charred skin. Cut the pepper in half, and remove the seeds and membranes. Slice the pepper into ½” thick strips and set it aside.
Pour half the sardine oil from the can into the bowl with the roasted peppers. Add lemon juice and zest, parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste, stir until combined.
Toast bread in a toaster or under the broiler until golden brown, then immediately, rub the cut side of the garlic all over the bread while it is still warm .
Place two sardines on each toast, and top them off with the pepper mixture. Garnish with the thinly sliced red onion and a drizzle of the leftover olive oil mixture.