“She broke her fast on sardines, fried crisp in pepper oil and served so hot they burned her fingers. She mopped up the leftover oil with a chunk of bread torn off the end of Umma’s morning loaf and washed it all down with a cup of watered wine, savoring the tastes and the smells, the rough feel of the crust beneath her fingers, the slickness of the oil, the sting of the hot pepper when it got into the half-healed scrape on the back of the hand. Hear, smell, taste, feel, she reminded herself. There are many ways to know the world for those who cannot see.” -A Dance with Dragons
What a unique and satisfying breakfast! The sardines sizzle and spit as they cook in the peppery oil, giving off the slightest seafood smell. The skin and breading cooks to a wonderful crispy texture that crunches as you chew. The pepper cooks into that outer layer, and melds with the tender, flaky fish on the inside. Umma’s Olive Bread is ideal for swiping up the leftover peppery oil from the plate, just as the Blind Girl did, and a splash of watered wine rounds out the whole meal.
Make it at Home:
Prep: ~15 minutes Bread: Day before
Makes 1 serving
Cook’s Notes: I used both olive oil and red pepper flakes, but if you have a red pepper-infused oil, feel free to use that- it should work very well! Also, most of the tiny rib bones are small enough to eat, but be mindful of larger bones.
- 4 fresh sardines, cleaned and gutted
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 1 Tbs kosher salt
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
- loaf of Umma’s Bread (get the recipe)
- watered wine (slightly sour is best)
On a small plate, combine the corn meal and salt. Dip the sardines in this mixture, making sure to cover thoroughly.
In a skillet or frying pan, combine the olive oil and red pepper. Bring to medium high heat, and add the sardines. Flip the fish occasionally, and cook until both sides are a nice golden brown. Remove to a plate.
Serve the cooked fish alongside some of Umma’s Loaf, or another rustic Italian-style bread. Watered wine and extra olives will also pair nicely. Consider adding just a small splash of vinegar to the watered wine, which will counter the oil of the sardines beautifully