This story starts with a confession. I got ratted out by my six-year-old this week, who keenly observed while peering in the pantry looking for a snack: "Mom, you've had these sardines for a month! When are you going to eat them?”
Here's the truth – when I started working with Vital Choice, I ordered a few things I already knew how to cook (like sockeye salmon
), a few foods I figured would be fairly easy to prepare (steamed Pacific blue mussels
), and a few things I'd never even had before.
However, since they arrived, they've been languishing in the pantry. Why? Because I was intimidated. I assumed they'd be too "fishy” smelling or tasting, and I had no idea what to do with them.
As I often do when stymied, I reached out to foodie friends and my favorite cooking websites, like Epicurious.com and FoodNetwork.com.
Snack #1 – Sardines on wheat crackers
My closest food-loving friend, Alison, suggested the simplest snack of all, which she enjoys many evenings when dinner is on-the-go: canned sardines on a simple wheat cracker (with a glass of heart-healthy red wine).
This seemed like the perfect way to start. I'd get a real sense of what canned sardines taste like, and I didn't need to run out for any special ingredients. Done!
I opened a light pinot noir, busted out my favorite whole wheat crackers and nervously opened my first tin of Wild Sardine Filets.
My first observation – no super-fishy smell. In fact, it was really most reminiscent of canned tuna … distinct but not off-putting.
Because the sardines I ordered were unsalted, I sprinkled my first filet with a bit of kosher salt and bit in. Delicious!
I was honestly so surprised at how mild-yet-flavorful the sardine was, and went back for seconds (and thirds)!
Sardines – the perfect heart-healthy snack
Emboldened by my sardines-and-crackers success, I started researching other simple sardine snacks I could experiment with.
Why choose sardines as a snack? They're jam-packed with Omega-3s (2730mg pers serving!). Also, because sardines are small and lower down on the food chain, they're generally very low in the contaminants sometimes found in larger fish.
Snack #2 – Sherried Sardine Toasts
Since I'm new to sardine cookery, I thought I'd start with snacks only – keep it simple and not focus an entire meal around this new food.
This recipe was very simple to put together – if you decide to try it, keep in mind that the sardine filets marinate for about an hour, but aside from that time this is a quick and easy recipe. Five minutes of actual cooking, max.
You marinate the sardine filets in oil, sherry vinegar (which is so delicious), lemon zest and parsley. Then you make toasts with a good, crusty bread like sourdough in the broiler (or toaster oven), cover in smashed avocado, then top with your marinated filets.
The final product was wonderfully fresh tasting – I loved the contrast of the richness of the avocado and the brightness of the sherry vinegar and lemon zest.
One note: the recipe calls for using the oil from the sardine cans. As mine were packed with water, I just added a bit of extra olive oil (and a bit of extra salt, as the filets were also unsalted).
My rating: 3 out of 4 stars.
Snack #3 – Sardine and White Bean Bruschetta
Before we get to the details, let me just say … this recipe is incredible. Please order sardine filets and make this. It took about 3 minutes to cook and our plates were polished clean in about the same amount of time!
Like the previous recipe, this snack comes together so quickly, making a great mid-day or evening snack. Everyone loved this preparation – here are the details.
To prepare, you mash drained cannellini beans with half of your sardine filets, then stir in fresh lemon juice, a bit of minced garlic and salt and pepper.
Then toast good, crusty bread (I used sourdough), top with fresh arugula (I used already-cleaned, boxed baby arugula) and your bean mixture. Add an extra filet to the top and dig in.
The arugula and lemon juice are the perfect fresh, bright counterpoint to the delicious richness of the sardines. The beans are quite mild and lend a lovely texture to these snacks.
This is the recipe I'll come back to again and again – and I think it's the perfect way to introduce a newbie to sardines. Enjoy!
My rating: 4 out of 4 stars