A few months ago, my wife and I were sitting on the sofa in our little Victorian house near downtown Denver, reading articles about fish online. We've both been told that we should eat more Omega-3 fatty acids, and oily fish are always at the top of that list — but we're trying to get pregnant, so we're also wary of mercury — and we're concerned about overfishing, unhealthy farming practices, and other oceanic environmental issues.
We noticed that the articles about health all mentioned salmon, while the articles about the environment said that (most) farmed salmon is a disaster, and wild salmon varies depending on the source — and can be high in mercury. Tuna is lower in the health list, and also varies by source on the environmental lists — but it can be high in mercury. Trying to balance any of the most popular fish across all three lists (healthiness, environmental impact, and mercury content) is tough, but there are a few less-popular fish which seemed good.
Trout, catfish, and tilapia are farmed sustainably in the U.S., and they're low on the food chain (they don't subsist primarily on eating other fish) so there's less mercury build-up in their flesh. We were surprised to discover that there are even tilapia farms right here in Colorado, so far from natural waterways that there's very little chance of contamination in either direction. So, those three are now the fresh fish we'll eat most often.
Sardines also showed up on the good side of all three lists: the wild population is healthy, not in danger of being overfished, they're low in mercury, and they're high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Plus — and this was one of the main things that convinced us to try 'em — we can keep canned (tinned) sardines in the cabinet for those days when we don't have fresh fish in the fridge.
Neither my wife nor I had had much experience with sardines. I remember eating some fresh-caught, breaded, fried sardines in a street cafe in Brussels a few years ago; they were tasty with beer, but a bit odd to eat with the bones still inside. I don't recall ever seeing them fresh in the U.S., though we've both seen cans of sardines in grocery stores.
It's with those cans that we began our exploration. We quickly discovered that the boneless skinless sardines can be used in place of canned tuna in nearly any recipe: the classic tuna sardine salad, tuna sardine mac, tuna sardine casserole, et cetera. We've also stumbled across a few new ideas, such as the sardine rice which has become one of our most common quick dinners.
And as we explored, we noticed that sardines are quietly but steadily becoming popular: Alton Brown (long one of my culinary heroes) talked about them on Good Eats, NPR did a story, and our local health food stores carry multiple varieties. Yet there don't seem to be a lot of recipes or other resources online.
Welcome to the sardinefish blog.
I've started this site so we can share our sardine-related experiments and discoveries, and we welcome your comments and participation. Thanks for reading.