Sardines Go Mainstream

Sardines… They were never anywhere near the top, let alone middle of my list of food items to enjoy. Just the word sardine would ring negatively in my ears. I had them in the pickled herring category, which is on the verge of un-edible. Slimy, oily, fishy and not happening!
A friend recently shared she had sardines on a salad for lunch. My curiosity was peaked and I wanted details. This person is trying to eat healthier, thus they’ve got to have something going for them, and I was unaware of just what that something was. Then I was enlightened.
BELA-Olhão Sardines from Portugal are her brand of choice in the ‘skinless boneless packed in olive oil” category. These large, meaty and lightly smoked little gems (yes, I now think of them as such) are uber tender and tasty. Oily…well they are packed in healthy oil, but not slimy or fishy.
The details:
– Natural source of Co-Enzyme Q-10 and Omega-3
– Good source of calcium and vitamin D
– Tested very low in mercury
– 100% dolphin safe
– Wild caught, sustainably fished off a non-industrial coast
– Packed fresh within 8 hours of catch
I haven’t tried the other varieties made by BELA-Olhão but you can check them out on their website.
There are several canned sardine producers out there. Whole Foods carries BELA-Olhão. Local markets Taylor’s, Corti Bros and Nugget carry other brands I’ll have to try.
Sardine fritters are a great party appetizer (or for anytime). I shallow pan-fried mine versus deep frying and they turned out tasty. I’ve included the recipe below for you to check them out.
What will I do next? Mix them in scrambled eggs, add them to pasta dishes, put them on crostini and top with parmesan cheese, mix them into a bean salad… The possibilities are endless. They are now in the mainstream of my pantry!

Sardine Fritters (Servings: 6-8)
Depending on the sodium content of the sardines used, you may have to increase or decrease the salt. They are great with lots of lemon or lime juice squeezed on top.
2 cans oil-packed sardines, removed from oil and chopped
2 eggs
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced (depending on your enjoyment of garlic)
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons red bell peppers, small dice
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Vella Dry Jack cheese, grated (or a strong flavored, hard grating cheese like parmesan)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into 4-6 wedges
Baby green or arugula leaves, for garnish
Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
1. Mince the garlic, and chop the parsley and peppers; set aside.
2. Fill a heavy pot 1/3 to 1/2 up the sides with the oil. Heat over medium-high (to about 350F).
3. Meanwhile, combine everything but the lemon wedges in a large bowl, and stir just until combined.
4. Form the batter into golf ball size fritters with a spoon. (I flattened mine slightly so they were more like a small patty.) Fry about 4 or 5 at a time, turning once so both sides are golden brown and crisp, (about 2-4 minutes). Remove with a spider or slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
5. Serve on top of a few baby green or arugula leaves with a lemon wedge. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.
For a different flavor, substitute cilantro for parsley, omit the cheese and add 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno.

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