Sardine & eggplant brandade… why the heck not?

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

I love this quote by Julia Child. It’s just another way of saying: “Embrace the process”. And embracing the process has been my challenge and my light these past few months. With parenting. And cooking. And blogging. All things that make me patient somehow. And not so worried about what comes next. Just enjoying the present and its inescapable reality.

So one week night, I am feeding Pablo sardines, and sauteed eggplant. He has a bite, I have a bite. And wow, what a great combination. Let’s follow that lead and make a new kind of “brandade” then… I guess this is a nice lesson to teach. As Pablo is watching me photograph sardine “mush” from every angle, hopefully he’s learning. That sardine mush is hard to photograph. And that when you sense a speck of inventiveness or creativity, no matter how silly or minute, grab hold and don’t let go, follow that thread, even if it doesn’t lead anywhere. Success in life lies in that thread. It certainly is a lesson it took me a while to learn, and I have been too often guilty in my life of letting go of the thread and watching the speck burn out.

Let me be honest though… As much as I enjoy the process of cooking, I’m just so darn happy when a dish turns out delicious and Pablo gobbles it up licking his fingers and signing for more! Process is all fine and dandy, but a little result is pretty nice too… 😉 I guess, once again, it’s all about balance.

Sardine & eggplant brandade

Age: 8-10 months. I gave Pablo sardines around 6-7 months, but since this recipe mixes a few ingredients, better wait til 8-10 months. This is a nice easy family dish everyone can enjoy.

Health benefits: Sardines are very nutritious, high in protein, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, with very low levels of toxins (see their many health benefits here.) Eggplant and cilantro both contain a host of vitamins and nutrients. Eggplant is a good source of fiber, vitamins B1, B6 and potassium. Cilantro is very rich in vitamins A & K, among many others.

Makes 2 servings

1 can of sardines in olive oil (you can use some of the oil)
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut-up
Some olive oil
1/2 bunch of cilantro
2 tsp lemon juice
Some grated Pecorino cheese (Parmesan or Swiss are also an option)
1 tbsp of bread crumbs
A dab of butter

Preheat the broiler at 450/500°.

Sauté the eggplant over medium heat in olive oil (you can use some of the olive oil from the can of sardines) until golden brown and soft, about 10 minutes. It absorbs a lot of olive oil, so add some if the pan gets too dry.

Place the sardine filets, the cooked eggplant and the cilantro (pre-cut with scissors) in the food processor, drizzle with lemon juice, and pulse a few times (you can make it a fine puree or a more grossly chopped mixture).

Pour the mixture into two oven-safe ramekins, sprinkle some bread crumbs, then the grated Pecorino, and two or three pea-sized pieces of butter on top.

Place in the broiler for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Rainbow brandade… and the beauty of food

Sharing an adaptation of a classic French dish today: the brandade. It has many variations, but
typically it is a mixture of cod fish and potato. To add a healthy twist with
some leafy greens, I mixed in Rainbow Chards.

Photographing produce and foods for this blog, I have been amazed to see how beautiful they can be.  I think it is an important part of the enjoyment of food and cuisine: the appreciation of the aesthetics, the beauty, the perfection of what nature has to offer. I heard on NPR / Splendid Table a fascinating interview with a man with no taste. In order to enjoy eating, he has to enjoy its other components, such as the aesthetics and the texture. Still thinking of food as a means to nurture other areas of development for our children, looking at the amazing colors of these chards with Pablo, at their veins, marveling with him at the intricate work of Mother Nature, was one sneaky little lesson in aesthetics, and in the value of seeing the beauty in the little things around us.

This is a dish I don’t freeze, it’s best made right before
serving. It’s about half an hour total prep time, with 20 minutes of free time
while it cooks. Well worth it though! This was so tasty we made some for
ourselves as well! The fish taste is very subtle, so it’s a good way to get a
toddler to eat fish if he/she has been resistant to it before.

Bon appétit!

Cod &
Rainbow Chards Brandade

Age : 8-10 months

Makes one portion.

1 medium potato, peeled, washed and diced.

4 leaves of Rainbow Chards, washed and cut-up

3.5 tbsp milk (whole or formula)

Black Cod (wild caught and fresh preferably) – a piece of
0.7 to 1 oz

2 tsp of butter

Place the diced potato in a pot, add the chards and ½ cup of
water. Cook covered on low heat for about 20 minutes (make sure to add a bit of
water if it evaporates).

Add the piece of fish and cook for another 5 minutes.

Drain, and place the chards, fish and milk in the food
processor. Mix to desired consistency.

Optional step: Put the brandade in an broiler-safe ramekin,
sprinkle some breadcrumbs, place the pieces of butter on top, and put in the
preheated broiler for a couple of minutes, until golden brown on top.

Variations:

– You can replace the Rainbow chards with any leafy green of
your choice: spinach (you can use frozen, then add a bit less water when
cooking), Swiss chards, kale, etc.

– You can also experiment with other fish: Dover sole, tilapia, or salmon.