Sunday, October 30, 2005

Give Sardines a Chance

Like most people, I long considered sardines to be piscine symbols of cramped confines, not a healthy and delicious food.

But really, a great many edible items that come in packages tend to share close quarters. Why do we never hear, "Man, we were packed like frickin' prunes into that subway car"? Or, "Like a bunch of Cheerios we crammed into that taxi"?

I think it's because some people can't think of anything nicer to say about sardines. Well, I can. And I'm not even a nutritionist.

I love the little guys. I like the canned ones, as you see here in a spinach/arugula salad that I made for Margy, and I adore the fresh ones, which you will see eventually if you come back to CFM from time to time. Give sardines a chance, I beg you. It's cool that they've been making headlines for their "superfood" properties, but most of their press just makes them sound like something you swallow while holding your nose. No way. They are indeed full of nutrients -- I'm trying not to use terms like omega-3 fatty acids if I can help it -- but, more importantly, they really do taste great. If you eat fish at all, especially if you eat canned tuna, you'll probably like sardines.

In fact, a dish like this was the thing that introduced me to the glory of sardines. I was at my parents' one day, and Mom asked if I wanted lunch. She said she could make a nice salad with canned sardines. I'd acquired a taste for anchovies by then -- an infatuation, really -- and so I fought my built-in sardine skepticism and said sure, why not. The salad was wonderful, just drained sardines on top of greens, dressed with olive oil and lime juice. I was delighted to find that, unlike most dishes my mother makes that are impossible to replicate for the five-billion-plus people in the world who lack her Midas touch, this was almost as good when I made it. I even added a drop of dark sesame oil to the dressing and sprinkled some sesame seeds (clumsily, I admit -- Margy had to hit the road, and I hate to keep her waiting at the table) as a garnish.

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