I didn’t grow up eating sardines. I had used them in phrases when piled into a subway car or elevator. But I never ate them or even thought about eating them or how I could cook with them. In fact, I just recently started cooking with them. In an attempt to eat more fish on a relatively tight budget I decided to buy a few cans the next time they went on sale . And there they sat in my pantry waiting patiently for me to work up the courage to eat/cook with them. For some silly reasons I was nervous to even try a sardine.
So I procrastinated and decided to do a bit of research on them. That “bit” of research turned into a few hours of nutritional comparison and recipe research because after just a few minutes online I had discovered that there are more to sardines than their ability to fit into small places. And so while munching on sardines, parmesan reggiano and spelt herb crackers, I have decided to share with you a few facts about sardines along with two recipes.
First of all, there is a website that I highly recommend you keep bookmarked if you are curious as to if a fish should be wild caught/farmed and even details such as which ocean that fish should come from. The Seafood Watch Program through Monterey Bay Aquarium has more information on fish than you ever knew existed. It is also a wonderful resource to have if you not only want to eat the healthiest fish available but also support companies and fishermen who catch the fish using techniques that do minimal damage to the environment. They also have a list of the Best of the Best, the Super Green list, and as of July 2013, pacific caught sardines are on it! ** Pacific caught sardines trump Atlantic caught as they are being overfished in the Atlantic and populations are in decline.** This link will take you there The Seafood Watch Program.
Sardine contain almost twice as much vitamin B12 than sockeye salmon, 150% of your daily value in one 3.5oz serving. So if you aren’t a fan of beef liver, or red meat in general, sardines are a great source of B12. One serving of sardines will take care of 48% of your vitamin D needs for the day, 24% of calcium, 58% selenium, 37% phosphorus and 21% of niacin. Salmon is always talked about as a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids…well…sardines contain over two times the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids and four times the amount of monounsaturated fats. (info from skipthepie.org) Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding the facts I listed above including why those vitamins and minerals are so important.
Sardine are also very budget friendly and as far as mercury concerns go, they are a great choice as the levels of mercury increase the higher up the food chain you go (sardines are at the bottom). Sardines can be eaten straight out of the can on crackers or in a salad which makes it a fantastic way to eat fish without having to actually “cook” for those who don’t eat much fish because they don’t know how to cook with it. (If that happens to be you and you want to have a cooking lesson and learn different fish recipes let me know!). Now while I enjoy snacking on sardines, I also happen to love just about any and all food so I’m not the best barometer of whether something would go over well with the average person. I decided to test sardines out on my 3 year old. I chose a kale salad as the test and grabbed a few other vegetables to add to it along with some olives, capers, pepperoncinis, and sundried tomatoes.
I made a dressing with some lemon juice, salt, olive oil and red pepper flakes and a dash of balsamic, threw it all together and served it to my tester. She not only loved it but finished off the entire salad with me.
Sardine and kale salad
- Kale I used purple and green simply because I had it in the fridge
- Red onion
- sun dried tomatoes
- kalamatra olives
- grated hard cheese or feta
- Lemon juice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- unrefined sea salt
- red pepper flakes
- Any vegetables you have in your fridge would be great in this salad...Kale salads in my house change daily based on the produce on hand.
- Make a dressing with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper ( I think I added a dash of balsamic too) in a separate bowl OR simply dress the salad after everything is chopped and mix together by adding some lemon juice, olive oil and salt until it tastes good to you! (that is how I usually dress salads since it means one less dish to clean and depending on what all I add to the salad the dressing amount will change.
- Chop all of the vegetables and mix well. Break up the sardines as you add to the salad. I finely chop the olives, pepperoncinis and sun dried tomatoes and add the capers whole. Dress the salad and adjust the seasoning to your preference. Add cheese and enjoy!
Sardines are also wonderful in a tomato based pasta dish. The end result is that you won’t even really see the sardines or “taste” the sardines but instead the dish has a delicious seafood flavor for the fraction of the price that you would pay for a seafood pasta dish in a restaurant. I decided to make up some noodles for it but that of course is not necessary for the dish to be a success!
Sardines in a tomato sauce with fresh herb linguini pasta
- Fresh or boxed linguini noodles
- Tomatoes canned or fresh
- a few Anchovies optional
- 1 Onion
- 2-4 cloves garlic
- 1 shallot optional
- a few teaspoons Tarragon
- 2 Tbs white wine
- 2 Tbs white wine vinegar
- unrefined sea salt
- red pepper flakes
- favorite herbs/spices
- capers optional
- freshly grated cheese of choice
- I went ahead and made some fresh herb speckled linguini for this dish, but if you aren't a fan of making your own noodles then don't worry, just cook your favorite linguini al dente and set aside or simply make the noodles up at any point during this recipe.
- Time to caramelize onions! In an olive oil and butter combo, slowly cook down the onion for at least 15 minutes ( in a rush? just cook until soft).
- Add in minced garlic and chopped anchovies continue to cook on low. I happen to like the flavor that anchovies add, if you hate them, don't use any!
- Meanwhile in a small pot combine the white wine, white wine vinegar, shallot and tarragon and cook down until about 1 Tbs remains. Add this to the onions and garlic. The reason I made a quick white wine reduction for this dish is because I had just a little bit of wine left that from another dish and a shallot hanging around. You could skip this step completely and still have a fantastic dish.
- Add however many diced tomatoes as you want. I drain and rinse my canned tomatoes and recommend doing the same if you don't need the juice. As I have mentioned before, I like to control the type of salt I eat and would rather resalt the tomatoes with unrefined sea salt.
- Add in the sardines, skin/bones and all and mix well breaking the sardines up. You can rinse the sardines as well. If your sardines are packaged in extra virgin olive oil or tomato sauce, feel free to add a little to the pan as well for extra flavor.
- Season with red pepper flakes and favorite herbs and grated cheese. Serve either over the pasta or mix it all together.