I am a true Cancer. I love tradition, setting up a cozy home, antiques, and yes, I’m a dreamer. My world for the most part, is a happy, cozy place. That bowl full of fresh lemons smells as beautiful as it looks and it makes me happy. They are there to remind me to make a lemon meringue pie from scratch, but I keep putting it off mostly because, they just make me happy to see them and to breathe in their fragrance when I walk by. I own no shiny furniture. Everything is pock marked, and old and I always imagine what life was like for those who owned them when they were new. I wonder how they got their marks and their stains. My antique glasses remind me of lemonade and Kool Aid, and picnics in baskets and mint julep and verandas.
Next, the wine. My grandfather would add a few glugs of his homemade wine, usually made from Zinfandel. Instead I opened a white Biancolella, Casa D’Ambra from Ischia 2010. Fresh sardines are not strong tasting, and I wanted a lighter sauce. I thought the minerality of this wine would go well with my salt-water fish and that it could also stand up to the tomato sauce.
Today, I’ve been thinking about my grandfather, Amedeo Temistocles Orazi who lived in our home where I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario. By the time I was old enough to really study this character, his tall build was burdened by his years, and he couldn’t see or hear very well. My visits to him in the basement didn’t last long, but they were frequent. He had a wood stove down there, and I’m sorry to use that adjective again, but it was really "cozy" on a cold winter night, when the only thing to watch on tv was hockey or Don Messer's Jubilee. He also cooked on that stove, and he only owned 1 pot and 1 pan. The pan was so seasoned with olive oil and garlic that no matter what he cooked, it smelled good. Today I’ve tried to re-create one of his concoctions. I have no idea what his recipe was…I’m going by smell. Here it is then
Alici del Nonno Amedeo or Nonno(grandfather) Amedeo’s Fresh Sardines in Spicy Tomato Sauce.
I bought some fresh sardines today at the local Pescheria and I asked them to clean them which means cutting of the head and pulling out the entrails. I bought ½ kilo. Once home, I rinsed them, and took out the backbone.
I placed them to dry on a paper towel.
Then I added olive oil to cover the pan, two cloves of garlic, 1 diced small onion, and a bunch of flat leafed parsley, 1 hot pepper (should have added two, because I like it spicier) and I simmered for a bit.
I added the fresh, cleaned sardines ( I know my grandfather used canned sardines which would have had a stronger taste and smell), and I mixed everything around now and then. I put a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
Then I added the passata to the almost cooked sardines. I would hazard a guess at 1 cup but it was really half a beer bottle. (Passata is slightly cooked, crushed and sieved tomatoes preserved in a beer bottle. The process is done at the end of June when the southern Italian tomatoes are ripe and sweet and they are bottled in sterilized beer bottles and a crown cap is put on. You can buy Italian passata in glass bottles in Italian grocery stores.) In Canada, I used crushed tomatoes. I added a couple of fresh leaves of basil and a bit of salt to taste (only add salt if using fresh sardines.) I let simmer and reduce.
The first pour went into my glass and on the palate there is no doubt that this wine reflects the terroir of a volcanic island surrounded by the salty sea. The wine is like a breath of salt sea air. Biancolella is usually blended with Forastera, 2 indigenous vines of Campania, but the wine is mainly found on Ischia. To date, Casa D'Ambra is the best producer of this wine that I have tasted. It is complex, floral, fruity, and has a lingering mineral aftertaste.
I added a couple of glugs, and I let simmer uncovered while I put the pasta into the salted boiling water.
I served this dish on pasta, but I realized that once it had reduced it was better suited to a bruschetta. I could not resist the fresh Italian bread that I bought this morning , so I returned to the pan after my meal was finished and just scooped it on my bread.
This is a dish per fare la scarpetta, or good enough to clean your plate with your bread.