I’ve never liked sardines but I finally found a way to eat them other than holding my nose and swallowing. In fact, I think I like this sardine recipe even more than tuna salad (which I don’t eat anymore because of the high mercury content). Before I tell you how I prepared the sardines, let me tell you a few reasons for even bothering to eat them. First of all, sardines with bones are among the healthiest of all fish for us because they are small and low on the food chain (not having ingested lots of toxins like larger fish), high in omega-3 fatty acids (the kind that may prevent cardiovascular disease) and provide us with high quality protein and easily absorbable forms of calcium and vitamins B12 and D. Sardines are always on the list of sustainably sourced fish and they are often canned in olive oil, one of the healthiest oils, or just in water. And, right now during this pandemic, they are a readily available source of fish and can be ordered.
Some people like sardines out of the tin on a buttered cracker or toast. I can manage that if I have to but never found it delicious. I would have to add equal parts butter to the sardines but then they wouldn’t be at all healthy anymore. My parents used to eat them with vinegar and chopped onion but I’ve never loved raw onion so never adopted that version. Not unlike my recipe for tinned salmon salad, I mix rinsed sardines with a long list of ingredients which is flexible and ever-changing. If you don’t have or really can’t stomach sardines, this recipe will improve your tinned tuna, mackerel or salmon, probably even mashed beans. Chopped toasted almonds would be good in place of sesame seeds and if you don’t have fresh dill, use dried or try thyme or cilantro or just parsley. If you prefer mayo to yogurt, use it or just use mustard. If you don’t have or want to use Parmesan, use cottage cheese or Cheddar or leave out the cheese altogether. Should you only have one tin of sardines, you could beef up the salad with a cup of cooked beans or a hard-boiled egg or two. You can use just lemon or pickle juice (or substitute vinegar) but I think both makes for better flavor. I didn’t have pickles so I used olive brine this time. If you want to toss in some chopped pickles, carrots, jicama or peppers, a spoonful of relish or some chutney, you would only be adding layers of flavor. In my mind the whole purpose is to tame the fishiness (yes, I said it) of the sardines. I think it works! Let’s make up another name, like Pantry Salad, to make it more appealing. When it gets hotter this summer, you won’t have to turn on the stove to make this. Serve as a sandwich, with crackers or alongside a shredded carrot, green or fennel salad and you’ll have a satisfying, inexpensive and tasty lunch or dinner by just shopping in your pantry and refrigerator.
Mash the contents of 2 tins sardines with bones (3 small headless fish in each 4.375 oz tin)and mix together with:
- 2 TBs plain Greek yogurt
- 2-3 TBs grated Parmesan
- 2 TBs Dijon mustard
- 1 TB lemon juice
- 1 TB pickle juice
- Zest of one lemon
- 2 TBs chopped fresh dill (or 2 tsps dried)
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1-2 chopped scallions or 1 TBs finely minced red onion
- 1 TB relish, capers or chopped olives or pickles, optional
Top with toasted sesame seeds or chopped toasted almonds and parsley