The Tinned Fish Cookbook: Easy-to-Make Meals from Ocean to Plate by Bart van Olphen (The Experiment, $18.95)
Photo: Contributed
Photo: Contributed

Cookbook review: Recipes for canned fish are fit for pandemic pantries

I always keep a few cans or pouches of tuna in my cupboard to throw on salad greens or mix with mayo for a last-resort meal. Rarely do they figure into a recipe I’m excited to make.

Bart van Olphen offers a more reverent view of all manner of preserved seafood, from tuna to cod liver, in “The Tinned Fish Cookbook: Easy-to-Make Meals from Ocean to Plate” (The Experiment, $18.95). For home cooks scrambling for fresh ideas for stocking and cooking from their pandemic pantries, the timing couldn’t be better.

The Dutch chef and award-winning cookbook author developed a passion for fish while working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris. He went on to become a leading advocate of sustainable seafood, traveling to responsible fishing communities around the world to learn first-hand how they caught fish. Along the way, he visited small-scale canneries and high-end department stores where tinned fish is treated as a delicacy, and began to explore its unique textures and taste characteristics at home.

Tinned fish is almost always caught in peak season in the wild, he notes, ensuring the most flavorful product at an affordable price. With a shelf life of about four years, it’s waste-free, and the tin can itself is recyclable. And because the fish has already been cooked inside the can, “all you need to do to create an appetizing dish is to add color, herbs and spices, some acidity, and texture,” he writes. He makes his point with more than 40 globally-inspired recipes, including Tuna Noodle Salad with Wafu Dressing, Mackerel Tarte Tatin, and the two I tried and would make again: Quinoa Tabbouleh with Sardines (Get the recipe at ajc.com/cookbooks.), and Salmon Cakes with Chimichurri.

Not all tinned fish is created equal. Van Olphen, who has a European line of fresh and preserved seafood called Fish Tales, offers label-reading guidance for ensuring a product’s sustainability. He shares tips for using water-packed (cold dishes) and oil-packed (hot dishes), and insights into the fishing and processing practices of each fish type.

To learn more, you can tune into his online cooking channel, Fish Tales, on Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube Network, or follow his fishing and culinary adventures on Instagram (@bartsfishtales).

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Sardines
Photo: David Loftus

If you’re at a loss as to what to do with a can of sardines other than eat them with crackers, check this out. It’s a fresh, healthy, and highly flavorful meal in itself that goes together in minutes. Reprinted with permission from “The Tinned Fish Cookbook: Easy-to-Make Meals from Ocean to Plate” by Bart Van Olphen (The Experiment, $18.95).

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Sardines
  • Heaping ½ cup quinoa
  • 2 bunches parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 bunch mint leaves only, finely chopped
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • ½ jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, seeded and diced, with a few tomatoes quartered
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Two (4.2-ounce) tins of sardines in olive oil, drained
  • Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Set aside and leave to cool.
  • Put the parsley, mint, scallion, jalapeno, and diced tomato into a large bowl and stir in the cooked quinoa. Add the lemon zest and juice, season with salt and pepper, and make the tabbouleh extra creamy with a generous splash of olive oil.
  • Top the tabbouleh with the sardine fillets and the quartered tomatoes and serve.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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