Seafood salads served in avocado halves always used to remind me of 1960s kitsch food, the sort of thing you might see photographed in garish colors in a thrift store magazine. That was until I realized why this retro combination was so popular with the ladies who lunched fifty years ago: it is very, very good.
Crab or shrimp salad might have been the choice back then, and both are still tasty scooped into the hollow of a ripe avocado, but sardines are the key to a modern reinterpretation of this lunchtime classic. Canned sardines are budget-friendly, sustainable, and high in healthy omega-3s. Avocados are also full of healthy fats, making this a meal that looks modest, but actually keeps you going for hours.
If you are nervous about the strong taste of sardines, this is a good recipe to start with. Boneless, skinless fillets — milder in flavor and easy to prepare — are mashed with chopped cilantro and lime juice, which add a bright freshness to the fish. I like serving it over a salad dressed with an acidic vinaigrette, alongside crunchy toasts. Creamy avocado, lime-spiked fish, crunchy bread: even my husband, who normally avoids sardines, was lured in by the combination, which he pronounced "actually really good!" High praise, given his feelings about the fish.
And if you love sardines, it is simple to make this recipe more strongly flavored by using whole canned sardines in place of the fillets. You can either pull off the fillets to use in the salad, or mash it all up, bones and all.
Whatever you do, this meal won't take more than fifteen minutes to pull together. And since it doesn't require any cooking, it is a great hot-weather option, either as a satisfying lunch or light summer dinner that doesn't feel retro at all.
Cilantro-Lime Sardine Salad in Avocado Halves
1 3.75-ounce can boneless skinless sardines packed in oil, drained
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, divided
1 ripe avocado
Salt and pepper
Salad greens, for serving (optional)
In a small bowl, combine the sardines, cilantro, mayonnaise and 2 1/2 teaspoons of lime juice. Mash together thoroughly with a fork and season to taste with pepper and a pinch of salt, if needed.
Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Using a large spoon with a wide, shallow bowl, scoop each avocado half from its skin: run the tip of the spoon around the edge of the avocado to loosen it, then plunge the spoon between the skin and flesh. Keep the back of the spoon as close to the skin as possible, and work from the wider to the narrower end of the avocado. Rub each half with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon lime juice.
To serve, scoop half of the sardine salad into the hollow of each avocado. Serve over dressed salad greens if desired.
• For a more pronounced sardine flavor and extra calcium, use canned whole sardines.
• If cilantro isn't your thing, replace it with mint or parsley and use lemon juice instead of lime.
• Replacing the sardines with canned smoked trout is another tasty variation.
(Images: Anjali Prasertong)