Grocery stores are my favorite places to visit. Even when I travel to simply another place in the country, you can be sure I’ll hit up a g-store to see what is being eaten regionally by the locals. That’s how I discovered pickled green beans, in New Orleans and chocolate covered dried cherries in Traverse City! Every grocery store is a microcosm of what that area’s customer wants, so it’s a mini lesson in anthropology for me, and I find every trip to be a completely fascinating culinary adventure.
A couple years ago I visited Panama with my best friend, and the grocery stores were fabulous. Not only were there two different kinds of passion fruits, (my favorite fruit in the world, and super hard to get where I live and super expensive when I find them) a dozen different varieties of bananas, but the stores were set up in a completely unique way. Sometimes one product would be displayed on an entire shelf unit, so there’s be nothing but one kind of mayonnaise taking up a ton of space, and then the next brand of mayonnaise, etc. Visually it was very much like pop art, so I took a lot of pictures, despite the weird looks I got from fellow shoppers. I could have spent hours in those grocery stores, just looking at all the different foodstuffs they offered. I did get to take home a few bottles of aji chombo, a habanero hot sauce that was delicious, and some passion fruit flavored Kool-Aid, too. Why don’t they have that here? It was a great flavor!
Anyways, in my city the grocery stores can be pretty wonderful, especially the smaller, locally owned ones that cater to their immediate communities. For example, up the street is a store in a neighborhood with a large Russian and central European population, so the food there can be very interesting: lots of cherry products, exotic mineral waters, sausages, and shelf upon shelf of dozens of different tinned sardines and sprats. Which, of course, I had to try. I picked the prettiest can of sardines on the shelf to take home and make something with. Flatbread came to mind, of course!
And in case you’re like me and have no idea what a sprat is, it’s another kind of fish, similar to the herring, and it’s often passed off as sardines when canned. Regardless, sardines (and sprats) are high in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D, and are overlooked sources of deliciousness. This flatbread recipe uses sardines (or smoked sardines, if you prefer, for even more flavor) topped with onion, peppers, and arugula. I can see why these little canned beauties are so popular: after making this, there will always be a can of sardines in the house.
Step outside of the box, and try a sardine flatbread this week, you’ll be happy you did.
-Amy at Flatout