Tinned Treasures: Think foodies don’t eat canned foods? Think again

Canning isn’t just for peaches and pickles, nor is tinned seafood limited to Chicken of the Sea. Some of the world’s best seafood, often packed straight off the line with just a bit of salt and olive oil, is to be found in a can.

Premium tinned seafood can be found at high-end grocers and specialty food stores. The brands used here were purchased locally at Bob’s Seafood, Global Foods, Salume Beddu, Straub’s and The Wine and Cheese Place.

Spanish Octopus With Chorizo, Fingerling Potatoes and Salsa Verde
Adapted from a recipe originally printed in Under Pressure by Thomas Keller

4 appetizer servings

20 small fingerling potatoes
1 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
4 rosemary sprigs, divided
4 thyme sprigs, divided
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, divided
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for dressing and sautéing
3 large sprigs fresh tarragon, stems removed
1 medium bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed
1 large bunch basil
½ tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. capers, minced
½ tsp. cumin seed combined with ½ tsp. coriander seed, ground
2 to 3 cans Matiz Gallego canned octopus, rinsed
2 small links chorizo
Maldon salt to taste

• Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Add 1 tablespoon salt, leaves from 2 springs of rosemary, leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme and 4 cloves of sliced garlic. Simmer the potatoes until tender, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and cool.
• Slice the potatoes into 1/8-inch slices. Toss lightly with olive oil and reserve.
• While the potatoes are cooking, make the salsa verde: Prepare the tarragon, parsley, cilantro and basil by blanching them in a pot of salted boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, then plunging them into an ice bath until chilled. Squeeze the water from the herbs by wrapping them in a towel.
• Place the herbs in a blender or food processor. With the motor running, add ¼ cup olive oil in a steady stream and process until the mixture becomes a smooth paste.
• Strain the paste through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer over a bowl, using a spatula to extract as much of the herb liquid as possible. Add extra olive oil to the mixture if necessary. The yield will be small, but concentrated in flavor.
• Add kosher salt to taste, lemon juice, minced capers and the cumin-coriander powder and mix well. Reserve.
• Coat a sauté pan with olive oil and add the remaining rosemary, thyme and garlic. Heat the pan until hot, add the octopus and sauté until the octopus begins to brown.
• Add the chorizo and sauté another minute until chorizo is warmed through. Set aside.
• To serve, drizzle a bit of salsa verde on each plate.
• In a bowl, combine the potatoes and the octopus mixture. Add a small amount of olive oil and toss to coat. Divide the mixture between the plates.
• Drizzle each serving with the remaining salsa verde.
• Garnish with a few small cilantro leaves and finish with a few flakes of Maldon salt.

Snails in Anise, Citrus and Saffron Broth
4 appetizer or 2 entrée servings

1 pinch saffron
1/3 cup Pernod
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
½ fennel bulb, finely diced and fronds reserved
½ cup finely diced shallots
1 stalk celery, rough fibers removed and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 cup dry white wine
2 cans Sabarot brand Helix snails
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock or chicken stock
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 Clementine or small juice orange
1 small can Italian plum tomatoes
1 stick unsalted butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf rustic country bread
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled

• In a small bowl, steep the saffron in the Pernod for 10 to 15 minutes.
• In a soup pot or shallow stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the fennel, shallots, celery, minced garlic and fennel seed and sauté over medium-high heat until wilted but not browned.
• Add Pernod and saffron and wine and simmer long enough to allow the alcohol to cook out, about 4 minutes.
• Add the snails, the broth and the citrus zest and juices.
• Drain the canned tomatoes and then push them through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the tomato sauce. Add the tomato sauce to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
• Add the butter and season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Simmer an additional 10 minutes.
• Meanwhile, slice the bread into ¾-inch slices and brush each slice with olive oil.
• On a grill pan or barbecue grill, grill the bread until brown and well-marked on both sides. Lightly rub each piece with a whole clove of garlic to flavor the bread.
• Evenly divide the snail mixture between four shallow bowls.
• Garnish with fennel fronds and serve with plenty of grilled bread to soak up the juices.

Smoked Sprat Bruschetta With Fennel Jam and Tomatoes
6 appetizer servings

4 orange heirloom tomatoes (or any 4 tomatoes that have great flavor)
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. sugar
Sea salt
1 French baguette
Extra virgin olive oil
Fennel jam (recipe follows)
1 can Riga Gold smoked sprats
Maldon salt

• Prepare the tomato sauce: Using a box grater, grate the tomatoes into a bowl, collecting all of the liquid and pulp.
• Discard the skin and stem end.
• Grate the garlic with a microplane grater into the bowl and add the sugar and a large pinch of sea salt.
• Cook the tomato mixture in a large sauté pan for about 12 minutes or until all water has evaporated and you are left with a thick tomato sauce.
• Slice the baguette into ½-inch thick slices, brush with olive oil and toast until lightly browned.
• Spread each slice with 1 teaspoon of the tomato sauce, then top with 1 teaspoon of the fennel jam.
• Drain the can of smoked sprats and place one whole sprat on top of each bruschetta.
• Drizzle with a little olive oil and finish with a few flakes of Maldon salt.

Fennel Jam
Adapted from a recipe originally published in Put ’Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs. fennel bulbs, trimmed and very thinly sliced
2 lbs. Vidalia or other sweet onions
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. pickled mustard seed (recipe follows)

• Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel and onions and sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook until the fennel and onions are soft and begin to brown, about 15 minutes.
• Remove the lid and cook until caramelized and jammy, about 20 minutes longer.
• Add the garlic and the thyme to the pan and sauté 1 to 2 minutes.
• Add the vinegar and brown sugar and simmer for about 10 more minutes. Season to taste with pepper.
• Stir in the pickled mustard seed.

Pickled Mustard Seed

2 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
¾ cup water
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt

• Place all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or until tender.

Spaghetti With Tuna and Capers

4 servings

Kosher salt
1 lb. spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped capers
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 can Arroyabe or Ortiz brand Bonito del Norte tuna in olive oil, drained
Sea salt and pepper
Flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
½ lemon

• Bring a large pot of water, seasoned with enough kosher salt to make it taste of the sea, to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
• Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the smashed garlic and cook until lightly brown to flavor the oil. Remove the garlic and discard.
• Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the onion and minced garlic. Sauté until tender and caramel in color.
• Add the capers, the pepper flakes and the tuna. Season with a pinch of sea salt and pepper to taste.
• Sauté for several minutes, stirring to combine the ingredients.
• Drain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan, tossing to coat the pasta with the sauce.
• Add the parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Squid Ink Puttanesca

4 servings

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. diced pepperoncini
3 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed
¼ cup Gaeta, niçoise or other small brined olives, pitted and chopped
1 28-oz. can whole Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand into a bowl
1 can Fantis brand squid pieces in ink
1 lb. squid-ink pasta
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Moroccan preserved lemon rind, rinsed and julienned (optional)

• In a deep sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic. Sauté over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Do not let the garlic burn.
• Add the pepperoncini, capers and olives to the pan and sauté for another minute.
• Add the tomatoes to the pan, then add the squid and the squid ink from the can. Stir and lower the heat to medium.
• Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the mixture is reduced to a thick sauce.
• During the last 10 minutes of cooking the sauce, prepare the pasta according to package directions.
• When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and add it to the sauce pan.
• Toss to evenly coat the pasta with the sauce. Add red pepper flakes to taste, if desired.
• Garnish with preserved lemon rind.

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

8 lemons, rinds scrubbed
3 cups kosher salt
2 cups lemon juice

• Slice lemons into quarters from top to bottom.
• Place a layer of lemon quarters into a wide-mouth 1-quart jar and cover with salt. Add more lemons and salt, and continue doing this until the jar is full.
• Add lemon juice and secure the lid.
• Give the jar a good shake until all the salt is moistened by lemon juice.
• Leave the jar on the kitchen counter for two weeks, shaking once or twice every day. The lemon rind will soften quite a bit and will be permeated by the salt. Store the jar in the refrigerator for up to a year.
• To use, pull out the required amount of lemon, discard the pulp, rinse the rind (the rind is the only thing used) and julienne or mince and add to the recipe.