Fresh sardines are delightful, and well worth knowing PICTURES: JOHN KARSTEN MORAN
Consider the sardine. The name alone evokes a crowded car (“packed in like sardines”) or saltine crackers — or, if you’re me, a lip-smacking treat.

The sight of sardines in an opened can, pressed together tightly and cleverly layered, is actually quite beautiful. If you are a fan, a portable lunch of tinned sardines and crackers is a fine thing. Some, however, prefer a canned-sardine sandwich, whether on white bread with mayo and onions, on toasted buttered brown bread, or open-faced on rye with lettuce and tomato.

Fresh sardines are delightful, and well worth knowing. Many Sicilian recipes employ them; they can be found as marinated raw fillets, fried or tossed in pasta with wild fennel. 

Look for firm, shiny, glistening specimens, and ask to have them cleaned and scaled. Then it’s a simple matter of seasoning them with salt and pepper and a lick of olive oil. They take no more than two minutes per side  to cook and need only a lemon wedge for accompaniment. But a little thinly sliced fennel, a pile of salad leaves or a tomato salad would not be unwelcome.

Fresh sardines are also touted as a sustainable fish choice, preferable to larger fish that are higher on the food chain, such as tuna and swordfish, which are overfished and have high mercury levels. Sardines are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, too.

Most important, they are extremely delicious.

The New York Times