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Small fry: Better for the planet, better for your health

Friday, August 8, 2008

sardinesAfter The New York Times' Well Blog listed sardines as one of the 11 best foods you aren't eating, I went out and bought myself a can. I like eating fish occasionally, but I loathe preparing it myself -- and since my resident chef is off in New York State bein' a farmer for the season, I have had an unusually fishless summer.

So, I figured I'd give sardines a go. They get a bad rap (about as bad as anchovies), but according to Nutritionist Jonny Bowden they're "health food in a can."

"They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins."

On top of that, as Plenty magazine points out in an article about sustainable fish, sardines aren't subject to the rampant overfishing that has affected bigger species like tuna, sea bass and swordfish.

I have vivid memories of my 95 year old grandfather, still tied to his farm-work routine, sitting at the kitchen table at 5 in the morning with sardines and toast. It worked for him (clearly, since he lived well into his 90s!), but somehow fish and toast just didn't sound tasty to me. So I set off in search of a recipe to make sardines cool again.

So off I went to Chow.com, where the Chowhounders have solved countless culinary dilemmas for me over the past year. Some of them seemed a little down on sardines, which made me sad, but I did find this easy, tasty recipe.

"I've heated up some olive oil, put in some garlic and red hot pepper flakes. After the garlic is slightly browned, put in the sardines and some chopped tomatoes and saute. The sauteeing action will break up the sardines into bits. Add some par-boiled pasta (about 5 minutes before they're done) along with some pasta water to the pan. Cook until the pasta is done."

Delicious! And since I make that recipe weekly in the summer anyway (sans sardines, until now), it's a really easy way to add good fishy stuff to my diet without contributing to overfishing. My grandfather would be proud.

Photo: Sardine-avocado toast by In Praise of Sardines. See also: In Praise of Sardines, the blog.