By Hillary Myers
My dad’s family is from Norway and for as long as I can remember we’ve been eating fish balls, fish puddings, pickled fish, fish in a tube and fish in a can. Most people thought it was a little weird.
But these days, I’m feeling less like an outcast when I bust open a can of fish, especially sardines. I know a lot of you have strong feelings about sardines, but want to know why I love them?
These days everyone’s trying to get more omega-3 fats in their diet, because they benefit your heart and your brain. Sardines to the rescue! Sardines (Pacific, wild-caught) are one of the healthiest foods we can consume, according to the health and environmental experts we interviewed for “Sea Change” in our latest magazine issue. These nutritional powerhouses are one of the best sources of omega-3 fats, with a whopping 1,950 mg/per 3 oz. (that’s more per serving than salmon, tuna or just about any other food) and they’re packed with vitamin D. And because sardines are small and low on the food chain, they don’t harbor lots of toxins like bigger fish can. Plus, they’re also one of the most sustainable fish around. Quick to reproduce, Pacific sardines have rebounded from both overfishing and a natural collapse in the 1940’s, so much so that they are one of Seafood Watch’s “Super Green” sustainable choices. If you’re trying sardines for the first time, or you just really want to learn to like them, here are a few tips and a few recipes to stoke your sardine love:
• For the uninitiated, a good place to start is with a boneless, skinless variety. They come packed in water or olive oil. They’re mild, and can be used in recipes in place of canned tuna fish.
• Sardines also come smoked, and come packed in sauces like tomato and mustard—give one of these a try. Smear them on a cracker or piece of toast for a snack or light lunch.
• For veteran sardine eaters, the sky’s the limit! Sardines with bones and skin are delicious, too, and they look awesome on top of a salad or platter. P.S. The bones and skin are both edible. Those tiny bones deliver calcium too!
Greek Salad With Sardines: The fresh, tangy elements of a Greek salad—tomato, cucumber, feta, olives and lemony vinaigrette—pair well with rich-tasting sardines. Look for sardines with skin and bones (which are edible) as they have more than four times the amount of calcium as skinless, boneless sardines. If you’re lucky enough to have fresh sardines available in your supermarket, try them in place of the canned sardines. Lightly dredge them in salt-and-pepper-seasoned flour and sauté them in a little olive oil.
Spring Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette: A bold, layered salad that showcases sardines and asparagus, this beautiful dish adds variety to your weekday dining. If you prefer tuna to sardines or have fish from the night before, go ahead and use that instead.
Sardines on Crackers:A protein-packed and portable snack.
Tomato Toast with Sardines & Mint: Canned sardines make an elegant, yet inexpensive appetizer when served with fresh mint, tomato and onion on toast.