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What to do with — sardines

Canned sardines can yield delicious healthy treat. | COURTESY OF DAVID HAMMOND

Canned sardines can yield a delicious and healthy treat. | COURTESY OF DAVID HAMMOND

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You might have enjoyed rather large grilled sardines at higher-end Chicagoland restaurants like Anteprima (5316 N. Clark) and Nightwood (2119 S. Halsted).

Canned sardines, however, are undeniably humble food.

My first sardines came in cans bearing King Oscar’s picture and a key for opening; nowadays, many sardine cans are designed with pull-tabs (progress: less waste for the landfill).

Canned sardines are not fancy food. At Restaurant L’Epicerie au Bon Manger in Reims, France, I had to chuckle when co-owner Fabrice Parisot told me he actually “ages” his canned sardines, flipping them regularly to “confit” the fish in the olive oil in which they’re traditionally packed. “You can hold these fish for maybe six to twelve years, turning them over every six months or so,” Parisot told us. “I usually eat them after about six years.” So French!

Even if you’re not such a connoisseur of canned fish, there are many health reasons for eating sardines, which contain protein, calcium and omega 3s.

Most importantly, they’re tasty.

We eat sardines on crackers, but there are other very simple, more sophisticated preparations. Mitch Einhorn of Lush Wine and Spirits (3 Chicago locations) gave me his recipe for sardine salad, which he sells as a snack. Here’s a slightly modified version of Einhorn’s recipe, which pairs well with dry white wine:

1. Mix 1 tbls olive oil, ½ tsp thinly sliced shallot, ½ lemon juiced, 1 tsp capers with 1 tsp whole parsley leaves and pinch of black pepper with one can sardines, mashed

2. Drain sardine tin and fill with the sardine salad

3. Serve on plate with 2 lemon wedges and crackers — fancy, right!

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