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Oceana Magazine Fall 2009: Chef's Corner – Chef Sergi Arola

Spanish chef Sergi Arola demonstrates his flair for modern cuisine with a philosophy of using sustainable, seasonal ingredients.

Sergi Arola knows that customers aren’t coming to his restaurant to get a lecture on responsible fishing. And so the Spanish chef, known for his modern, urban cuisine, takes steps behind the scenes to ensure that only sustainable seafood reaches diners’ plates at Sergi Arola Gastro in the center of Madrid.

“What I can do is make sure I use the right products in the kitchen throughout the production chain – ones that are not out of season, that don’t come from destructive fishing practices, or that have not been caught in a protected zone or nature reserve,” Arola said.

An avid scuba diver, Arola respects the cycle of natural availability for the foods that end up in his kitchen. “I think that more than a philosophy, sustainability is a matter of common sense. We should be respecting the seasons, not just in the case of fish, but for all products. It doesn’t make any sense to have fillet steak all year round, and we shouldn’t be able to eat red bream or hake whenever we feel like it,” he said. “I don’t use the same types of tomato or lettuce all the time either.”

Marinated Sardines with Herring Roe, Vegetables and Tomato Bread

Ingredients for 4 servings 35 very fresh sardine filets

For the filling
1 ¾ ounces of herring roe
2 tsp carrot, julienned
2 tsp leek, julienned
2 tsp garlic shallot, minced
1 tsp celery, julienned
3 tsp finely chopped scallions

For the tomato bread
1 loaf of frozen bread
2 ripe tomatoes
sea salt
olive oil

For the marinade
2 liters of water
sea salt
white wine vinegar

Preparing the dish
The day before preparing the dish, filet the sardines with a very sharp knife to avoid disturbing the flesh of the fish. Extremely delicately, using small tweezers, remove the spines.

Add sea salt to the water until it tastes like sea water. Then add a trickle of vinegar (it shouldn’t taste like vinaigrette, so just a touch is needed).

Add the sardines to the marinade until the bloody part, where the backbone was, turns white. Then remove the sardines from the salt water and vinegar and dry with a paper towel. Cover the sardines in olive oil and stick them in the fridge, well covered.

Make the filling by mixing together the above chopped ingredients.

The finish and presentation
Grate the ripe tomato using a medium grater and drain the pulp with a colander. Add salt, pepper and oil. Using a knife, slicer or mandoline, make very thin slices of the frozen bread and toast them in a medium oven.

Finish the plate with several cylinders of sardine filets in a soup dish. Fill the cylinders with the herring roe, and over the roe put a bit of tomato and cover with the “bread roof”…finish by adding a good deal of olive oil.


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