Canned sardines often get a bum wrap. Think of how many times you've purchased a can of sardines, but never ate them. The can sits in the back of one of your kitchen cabinets. And how many times have you opened that cabinet looking for something to eat, and closed it, without giving the sardine a second thought?
When you stock up on hurricane supplies, including non-perishable food, you might throw a few cans in your shopping cart, just in case. Or, sardines might only come to mind when you're describing an overcrowded subway car, "We were packed like sardines!"
Actually, I'm guilty of all the above. It took me some time to embrace the sardine. I eventually learned the modest, sustainable sardine, a tiny fish of the sea, is tasty and packs a humongous nutrition punch.
My earliest memories of the fish where watching my grandparents eat them in the morning, with a side of hominy grits. The Southern roots of my mom's parents were always alive in their New York City kitchen. They would offer me some sardines, half teasing. I'd scrunch up my nose, politely decline and shovel another spoonful of cornflakes in my mouth. Little did I know they were eating brain food for breakfast that way surpassed anything in a cereal box.
Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a good source of vitamin D, calcium, B12, and protein. Though the body can not produce them, Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids, which means you must get them through food. They are vital in brain function as well as normal growth and development. Omega-3 fatty acids might also reduce the risk of heart disease.
By eating sardines, you get all of this for a relatively low cost. I can think of other proteins, which are 10 times the price, yet do not contain as many health benefits.
A few years ago I tried canned sardines in soybean oil with jalapeao peppers, and really enjoyed it. Since then I've eaten almost every canned variety, sardines in tomato sauce, mustard sauce, olive oil and sunflower oil, to name a few.
If you've got cans of sardines in your cabinet, get them out and whip up something delicious. Try Chef Marcus Samuelsson's Garlic-Parsely Dip recipe found in "New American Table." So good.
Makes 1 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil 1/2 cup olive oil 3 garlic cloves chopped, plus 3 garlic cloves whole 2 poblano chiles, seeds and ribs removed, chopped 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 2 teaspoons tahini 1 cup canned chickpeas 2 canned sardine fillets Juice of 1 lemon 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1) Heat the sesame oil and olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic, chiles, coriander seeds, and tahini and saute until the garlic is golden, about 4 minutes.
2) Transfer to a blender with the whole garlic cloves, the chickpeas, sardines, lemon juice, and salt. Puree until smooth. Fold in the parsley.