Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sandwitchy Sardines and Lucky Lentils Sprinkled with Good Fortune

It was an ordinary weekday night and the Cute Gardener agreed to hand over his kitchen so I could recreate my favorite sardine sandwich for dinner that I’ve been craving from the Venice Beach-based co-op and deli Local 1205.

I had a list of ingredients and a dim idea of how they all went together, stacked from bottom to top in the following order:

Jewish Rye, lightly toasted
Saffron Aioli
Smoked sardines packed in olive oil
Hardboiled egg slices
Slightly sour pickle slices
Thinly sliced red onion rings
Fresh watercress greens

Of course, when you are trying to copy something precisely it never quite adds up the same.

For example, we weren’t going to spend a ton of money on saffron strings for the aioli so we decided to flavor it with lemon instead. We are both jarred mayonnaise haters, issues carried over from mutual childhoods filled with way too much of the gloppy, processed white stuff. So we decided to make some fresh lemon aioli for the night. I never realized how easy it is to make the stuff and how much it adds to a sandwich. The recipe is simple. You throw two egg yolks and one minced garlic clove into the bowl of a blender with a whipping option and process until the eggs grow light and frothy. Then while the machine is still running, you slowly drip, then pour ½ cup extra virgin olive oil in with a very thin stream until all the oil is soaked up. At the end you add in the lemon juice, salt and pepper and you’re done. It made enough aioli to save over for another night to add to homemade potato salad as well.

We also used our own pickles that we had been marinating in the fridge for a month made from cucumbers out of the garden.

We couldn’t find arugula or watercress so we settled with buying a bag of salad greens and picking out the ones we wanted. We realized that it is also important in this sandwich to use peppery greens.

I knew the sandwich of my dreams came with the bread lightly toasted and soaked through with oil, something I tried to mimic by pouring extra sardine oil onto the bread. But what I realized while we were eating it was that the bread was most likely toasted or grilled in a pan with some fat to get that texture before becoming a sandwich bed.

Because we had two egg whites leftover from making the aioli we made two egg white cocktails to accompany our dinner. A Pink Lady and a Pimm’s Cup Fizz, which we shared.

We also made a lentil side salad with the meal that became the hit of the evening.

Lentil Salad with Tomato and Dill

Adapted and made my own from an Epicurious Recipe


1 cup precooked lentils (I like the kind in the boil-able pack sold at Trader Joe’s)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 shallot minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Boil the lentil bag for five minutes then dump contents into a large salad bowl. Toss hot lentils with tomatoes, shallots, dill, basil, vinegar, oil, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste.

Back in Venice Beach, a few doors down from the shop where my sardine sandwich is sold sits another store I frequent often called Mystic Journey Bookstore. I had received a random email out of the blue recently from an intuit/healer named Kimberly Berg who oftentimes leads workshops there, wanting to send me a present. I gave it to her along with my name and the Cute Gardener’s name. So for dessert, we had the pleasure of opening two custom-made fortune cookies that Kimberly had baked and sent us in the mail that had arrived earlier that day. What was so bizarre was that I had never met this woman before and her predictions were dead on.

I have been transitioning in my life over the past year, wanting to leave my old life and PR business for my burgeoning art and writing career and my passion for growing, writing about and working with and around food as fuel to support my creative endeavors that have been gaining momentum over the past decade. What a perfect gift it was on the road to the fruition of my dreams to be sitting in the house of my new love, celebrating the art of home cooking meals together and cracking open a home-baked cookie to reveal my fortune, that of which I am on the right track of all my creative plans even if they may take a year or so to unfold. For today, my life is all about the magical fermentation of talent, intellect, art, literature, passion, good food, conscious cultivation and bliss.

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