Sure the big guys get all the looks. You stroll past a fish stand and most often what you notice first are the beautiful hues of big fresh fillets: the red tunas, the bright orange salmon, the glistening swordfish, the creamy halibut or the iridescent stripes on a trophy bass. With all these heavy hitters and mealtime favorites, it's easy to forget or ignore one of the oceans smallest, tastiest, and healthiest "little guys". People, pay attention to the sardine.
Maybe it's because they are often sold with the head and bones intact, or it could be that some of you are harboring noxious memories of being force fed canned sardines at an early and impressionable age, but either way there are many who never consider fresh sardines for dinner. How can such a small, delectable fish be so intimidating?
Fresh sardines are delicious on the grill, and with the warmer winds beginning to blow, you won't find a simpler option to cook in the fish market. Sardines are delicious without the sauce. They pack a lot
of healthy oils and cook really quickly on a hot grill. They are best enjoyed grilled whole, with only the scales and guts removed (BlackSalt will do that for you). Their flesh is smoky and full of umami, that 5th sense of taste that the Japanese refer to as "pleasant savory taste", and the fillets peel from the bone rather easily once cooked. Add a little salt, pepper and olive oil, toss 'em on the grill, and 5 minutes later you are transported to a better place in which you can hear the waves crash, feel the sun grow bigger, and your mouth and soul rest, sated and content.
Did I mention that sardines are one of the healthiest seafood options available? Any concerns you may have with bigger fish options are completely null and void when you are considering sardines. Sardines contain high amounts of omega-3s, vitamin B12, protein, and selenium, and this list is really only scratching the surface. Sardines are a perfect food. Even better, they are sustainable when sourced from fisheries like Spain and Portugal. Though they once thrived on our own West Coast, the fishery is closing early this year due to low stock numbers.
So if you are interested in a food this summer that will make you smarter, leaner, stronger, and generally a better form of yourself, try a sardine or three. BlackSalt Fish Market will be sourcing Portuguese sardines all summer with deliveries coming twice a week. Leave the big fish for the next person. Some of the best gifts come if small packages.