Thursday, February 26, 2009

It Is Not Wrong to Be In Love With The Sardine

Eric B and Rakim may have said it best in their song, ‘Paid In Full,’

“Fish, which is my favorite dish
But without no money it's still a wish.”

But fear no more as these bad boys pictured cost only about $1.19 per pound (only they come with the meat still on the skeleton)!

These are fresh sardines. Many may remember sardines as stinky, oily fish in a can that less than comforting old-timers used to munch on back in the day. Well, they are. But they were not always that way. Before that creepy old man who talks to himself outside the liquor store while dropping them in his toothless mouth got his hands on them, they were part of much larger schools swimming around in the ocean.

Today, fresh sardines can be found on many restaurant menus and cost a lot more than the canned version. But that is when they are prepared for you. Preparing them yourself results is a cheap, healthy and satisfying meal.

Contrary to popular belief, sardines do not stink. Like any fresh fish, if they smell, then they are old and should be avoided. They are, however, oily. Not as oily as those that get come from a can full o’ oil, but oily in the good way that makes them packed full of Omega 3 fatty acids which help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper B vitamins and calcium. In fact, 3oz of sardines contain the same amount of calcium as an 8oz glass of milk!

In addition to the goodness they contain, it’s also what they do not contain that makes them even healthier. Since they are small and low on the food chain, sardines contain a very small amount of harmful toxins, like mercury and lead, that are found in significant amounts in larger fish like the popular tilapia, mackerel and tuna just to name a few.

Yet another benefit with sardines is they are currently not in danger of being over fished. Thus, you can eat them with a clean conscious. The same can’t be said for that mercury-laden tuna you dig on either at the local sushi bar or from a can.

So in these tough economic times, why not explore new horizons while doing your body some good and keeping some money in your pocket by trying the simple recipe for sardines listed below.

Oh, and if you are still looking for a restaurant that serves the old-school sardines in a can, might I guide you to the best salad bar in the world located at The Old Country Club Steakhouse, in Roxboro, NC. There, next to the homemade dressings and fresh bacon bits you will find a jar full of sardines just waiting to be the piece de resistance on an already fantastic salad.

*Warning: While these fish are tasty, I would not recommend eating 1.2 pounds of them at one sitting as I did. Not that they are bad, but considering the average fish portion is just 4oz, 1.2 lbs is a whole lot of fish to eat.

Grilled Sardines with Lemon

12 fresh sardines (about 2 to 3 ounces each)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

De-bone and rinse sardines. Pat dry with paper towels. Spread sardines on a plate and drizzle with about 1 Tbl of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Heat grill pan over moderately high heat until hot. Grill sardines (may require cooking in two batches) turning over once, until just cooked through about 4 to 5 minutes total per batch. Remove fish from pan and put on a clean plate.
Stir together lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil. Drizzle mixture over sardines and eat.

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