Sardines and Celery: A Perfect Pairing

Sardines on toast — maybe drizzled with olive oil and topped with onions, or slathered with butter and rubbed with garlic — is always a sustaining meal. Especially now.

But what happens when I run out of bread? Or maybe, I had toast and jam for breakfast and want something a little lighter for lunch? Enter my crunchy sardine and celery salad, made from pantry items I always have on hand.

To make enough for one (and feel free to double or triple as you like), open a can of sardines, and take out the bones if that’s what you usually do. (I usually leave the bones in for extra crunch.) Put the fish on a plate.

Thinly slice a celery stalk or two, depending upon how large they are, and a scallion or half a small shallot (or a few slices of red onion) and put everything in a bowl. If there are celery leaves still attached, and if they look perky and fresh, chop those up and add them as well. You can also throw in some whole soft herb leaves. I’ve made this with parsley leaves and mint leaves in the past, but when I last made it I didn’t have either, and I really didn’t miss them.

Toss celery with lemon or lime juice, a mild vinegar, such as cider, or a tiny bit of sherry vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper, and a grated garlic clove if you like. (I usually do.) Let it sit for a few minutes to let it all marinate.

If you want to add an egg to bulk this out and give it richness, go ahead and boil one up until jammy-yolked. I start mine in cold water, bring it to a full boil, then time it for 3 minutes and 45 seconds before transferring it to a cold water bath for 2 minutes. But use whatever egg technique you like. Peel and halve it.

Drizzle the sardines with good olive oil. (Be generous if they were water-packed.) Add the celery salad and drizzle with more oil and top with flaky salt. Add the egg halves to the plate. You can dust the top with red-pepper flakes or chile powder, if you like it spicy. I do, and it makes the whole thing even prettier.

This is part of a weekday series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. (Other recipes in the series: Brothy lentils and rice. Flaky biscuits. Tahini omelet. Cold peanut noodles. Crunchy pantry popcorn. Vegetarian skillet chili. Dried beans. Baked oats. Canned tuna pasta. Any-vegetable soup. Pantry crumb cake.)

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