Canned sardines on toast is one of my favorite “I have nothing in the house for dinner” dinners. Although the dish couldn’t be any simpler, there are a few details that will make it truly shine. The toast needs to be hot when you rub it with the garlic, the oil needs to be lush and herbal, and the onion should be crisp and juicy. This sardine toast also has the guts of a ripe tomato rubbed into the bread, kind of like a Catalan pan con tomate (tomato bread with olive oil and salt), which adds a wonderful sweetness to the fish. If you can’t get a perfectly ripe tomato that’s about to burst, just skip it entirely. It’s nice to have but not essential. Just make sure to splurge on really good canned sardines—their quality makes all the difference.
When I eat this by myself, I usually devour it leaning over my counter within seconds of assembling it, while the toast is at its crunchiest before the olive oil has a chance to soak in. The walk to the table can seem so long when there’s hot sardine toast within reach, though it’s good a few minutes later, too.
- Heat the broiler.
- Place the baguette pieces, cut-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet and broil them until lightly toasted, 30 seconds to 2 minutes; watch them carefully so they don’t burn. (Or you can toast the bread in a toaster oven if that’s more convenient for you—any way you can toast the bread will work.)
- Immediately rub the cut sides (aggressively!) with the cut sides of the garlic halves, and then with the cut sides of the tomato. You want the garlic and tomato flesh to nearly disappear as they get smooshed into the bread.
- Drizzle the bread generously with oil and sprinkle it with salt, then top it with the sardines and onion. Sprinkle with lime juice, more salt, and pepper. Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.
Reprinted from Dinner in French. Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Laura Edwards. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.