Saturday, July 28, 2012

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.

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  1. Hi Helene, thanks so much for posting these recipes. I'm working through all your sardine recipes and so far they've all been huge hits with my 16 month old. I've always given her a wide variety of food but lately she's been refusing a lot. I just go with it and keep offering a variety of food to her but it's still a bit down heartening. Did Pablo go through phases of not wanting foods mixed with other foods or not wanting certain types of food? Thanks Alana

    1. Hi Alana, my apologies for the late response. Pablo has had his ups and downs, but I think I never paid too much mind to it. Just kept trying and he's always come around. One example was with bell pepper. He used to dislike it cooked as a baby, I let it go for a while, and he rediscovered them raw recently and loves them in salads now. Similar with beets. Enjoy the food yourself, remain excited and engaged with the meal experience (as well as cooking, trying new things, shopping for food, farmer-s markets etc) and keep the faith and trust she'll evolve. At 16-18 months, we can also start to engage a child more in the process, with gardening, with farmer's market, with some cooking, and simply talking about food... Let me know how it goes! :-)

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