Sardines: Love Those Little Fishes
As mentioned last week, I'm on an eat more fish at home kick, and so far, so good. In addition to tilapia, I've added fresh sardines to the lineup. I don't know what it is about me and the advent of spring, but I gotta have some fresh sardines at this time of year. I'll take a pass on the canned stuff, thank you very much, when the fresh six-inchers are so light, quick cooking and play nicely with other ingredients.
Plus--and it's a big plus -- sardines rule when it comes to heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and as a non-predatory fish low on the food chain there's no worry of mercury contamination. (For more info on other species, check out the chart of the most contaminated fish and recommended monthly servings from Environmental Defense.)
Oh, and there's more good word from the nutrition department: Sardines are loaded with protein (16 grams per 3.5 ounce serving) and serve up a fair amount of calcium, potassium and iron.
All that trash talk you hear about sardines stinking up the joint bears a bit of clarification. Like other oily-skinned fish (trout and blue fish), when cooked, sardines will aromatize the room more than the mild-mannered flesh of tilapia, for instance. Uncooked sardines, when gutted, should smell clean like the sea; if a stench emits from the fish wrapper, remove the head, gills and innards immediately, rinse thoroughly, then give it a good whiff. If the stink stays, chances are you've got a fish gone bad, and red eyes are a sign of deterioration. No need for fancy tools when gutting a sardine; a clean pair of scissors will do the job, as will a pair of nimble fingers to lift up that fine line of vertebrae.
Once clean, sardines take mere minutes to cook, making possible a 15-minute supper. Although grilled sardines are lovely, I am partial to pan frying mine, as demonstrated in my how-to video of a spritzy sardine salad with citrus and bitter salad greens.
In addition to citrus, I love pairing sardines with briny vittles, such as olives and capers or even a little Dijon mustard. Some of the sardine suggestions in "One Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish" by Carole C. Baldwin and Julie H. H. Mounts include white bean puree and radishes for a tres cool crostini topping, or a fun salad of fingerling potatoes with salsa verde and watercress. Doesn't that just scream spring?
(I'm also partial to frying up a quick sardine in olive oil and slapping it between two pieces of bread, with hot sauce. Don't tell!)
By the way, I've got a new favorite book on seafood: "The River Cottage Fish Book" by the very prolific Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his co-fisherman Nick Fisher. I've got my hands on the British edition, which covers many species unavailable in U.S. waters, but as with his impassioned meat tome, "Hugh" has got the sustainability angle covered. Reading this book is like going to fish school.
Got a fresh sardine tale to share? Do tell in the comments area.
By Kim ODonnel |
March 12, 2008; 7:32 AM ET
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