Last month's issue of SAVEUR featured sandwich variations from across the globe. I adore this magazine. Everything from the Parisian cafe-style ham and cheese topped with a poached egg to the grilled wraps smeared with sesame seeds, sweet sumac and dried herbs found on the streets of Beirut, every place seems to have a version of the sandwich.
Most interesting to me was an article written by Mike Colameco on the topic of sardines, the author's favored sandwich filling from teen-hood. My co-worker (and skilled chef) Michael, is a devout reader of SAVEUR too, and began bringing an assortment of tinned sardines to work after reading the article. We all shared the tiny oil-packed fish over the course of a few lunch breaks, and agreed, they are indeed a satisfying addition to the weekly menu. Not as fishy as herring, not as salty as anchovies, simple and easily topped upon a mustard smothered slice of baguette or between two slices of rye.
What I like most however, is how eating sardines makes so much sense. As the article briefly explains, the fish industry (much like the dairy, beef or pork industry) has long since relied on savvy campaigning to drive sales. In the 1950's, as the tuna market grew and aggressively advertised, small fish like sardines quickly became foods of the past. "This ushered in the era of factory tuna trawlers, depleted tuna stocks, massive bycatch loss, and mercury as a dietary supplement," writes Colameco. "By contrast, sardines remain abundant, bycatch is very low, and their meat is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 oils, without the heavy metals and toxins often found in larger fish."
He couldn't be more right. Seafood is a critical element to the human diet, delivering the much needed DHAs, EPAs, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B12, and minerals, relied upon to maintain a healthy system but also keystones for fertility and early development. Yet sadly, so much of today's fish supply has become toxic. In fact, pregnant woman are now advised to refrain from eating tuna even occasionally throughout gestation and breast-feeding.
Eating low on the seafood food chain is the best way to gain all the benefits of foods from the sea without consuming large quantities of heavy metals. Thus, the sardine. It is high time these humble fish take a modern moment in the spotlight. It's the little things, such as these, that can make huge impacts on our long-term health. Packed in high-quality olive oil, naturally briny, you may not miss tuna melts as much as you thought.
Open-Faced Brisling Sardine Melt:
*thin slices favorite mild cheese, such as Munster
*grainy mustard or horseradish creme, or both
*thinly sliced red onion
*fresh baby greens
*1 tin of olive oil packed boneless Brisling sardines
Place cheese slices on sourdough. Toast in a toaster oven until golden and bubbly. Remove toast from oven. Slather with grainy mustard and/or horseradish cream. Add onion. Pile on tender garden greens. Top with sardines. Repeat. Enjoy!