Staring at the fish case at the market, wondering what to make for dinner. Each catch comes with a little blurb on where their last days of their lives were spent and whether they belong to a sustainable species. A mound of sardines stare back – $3 a pound, an otherwise unimaginable price at Wholefoods – not even Vietnam farm raised Tilapia is that cheap. Could the reasons be that sardines are plentiful but nobody wants them?
They do have a bad reputation among home cooks – they are small and most people don’t know what to do with them. Better to buy them canned, which is where the bulk of fished sardines ends up anyway. It’s a shame though – they are easy to make, they can be grilled or broiled really quickly and, at $3 a pound, they might be small but you can afford a boatload.
Ever wondered where the name comes from? Easy enough but somehow I never made the connection – they take their name from the island of Sardinia, around which they used to swim in great abundance. In fact, they are a typical catch around the Mediterranean while in the States the biggest concentration used to be in Maine.
Buying fish is becoming increasingly hard if one wants to stay within the parameters of the Monterey Bay Aquarium which issues guidelines on what fish is ok to eat – and those guidelines tend to change on a regular basis. But sardines are a good bet – far from being endangered, they are extremely healthy as they contain those good fatty oils and omega 3 fatty acids that most of us don’t know what they are but we all know they are good for us (and, apparently, contribute to staving off Alzheimer).
So, after the previous 4 paragraphs went quickly through my mind, sardines it was. Grilled with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper and paired with roasted potatoes with sun-dried tomatoes they became a sliver of Mediterranean sunshine on my January table.
Disclaimer – they are a pain to de-bone once they have landed on your plate…