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Photography by aaron bengochea

When it comes to the warmer months, eating healthy typically tends to fall top of mind—and with the abundance of fresh produce available, it can be fairly easy to do so. But when we find ourselves in the dog days of summer and unappeased with the idea of spending hours perched in front of the stove, a lighter and less effort-inducing meal is one we can definitely get behind.

Enter sardines: An arguably elusive fare that is often (sadly) overlooked—their close, and inaccurate, association to anchovies may be one reason for this, the questionability of how to consume them, another. That is where we come in, with a handful of easy recipes and tips that will help elevate the canned staple.

Ahead, a guide to the ultimate, summer-friendly menu featuring sardines.

Photography by aaron bengochea

The health benefits of sardines are abundant—rich in nutrients and loaded with vitamins, the list is chockful of essentials such as Omega-3s, potassium, and more. Given the versatility of sardines—which, more often than not come packed in olive oil—you will find it easy to pair them with a diverse scope of dishes. Smoked sardines packed in a spicy chili sauce or with roasted tomatoes are ideal for those looking to embrace an additional range of flavors.

Tomatoes are a mainstay when it comes to said pairings—as the acidity of the fruit provides a refined complement to the delicate flavors of the fish—with butter standing in as another equally elemental component. Paired together, you’ll find yourself left with a dynamic combo that is filling and light.

Photography by aaron bengochea

Oven-Roasted Garlic-Chili Tomatoes

These roasted chili-tomatoes will complement a wide scope of flavor profiles, doubling as the ideal side for the recipes ahead. Aside from sardines, they can be enjoyed on toast, scattered onto a cheeseboard, or atop your go-to pasta recipe. The possibilities are endless!

  • 2 cups heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 red chili peppers
  • 1/2 head of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the tomatoes, red chili peppers, and garlic in an oven-proof baking dish and drizzle on top with the olive oil. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt and roast for 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Chili Butter

Sardines, toast, and a little smear make for quite the trio. Apart from being easy to whip up in a snap, the simplicity of these flavors pair effortlessly well with one another.

Bring half a stick of butter to room temperature, allowing it to soften before mixing with the chili peppers. Thinly slice one of the roasted chili peppers and mix it into the softened butter. Add an additional chili for a spicier rendition of the spread.

Photography by aaron bengochea

Once you have the chili butter, you can spread it on toast and layer the sardines on top. When it comes to the garnishes, lemon and parsley are an ideal starting point. Ahead of that, fresh veggies—think thinly sliced radishes and onions—will provide a fresh element with added crunch. Psst! Those roasted tomatoes can definitely work here too.

If we’re being honest, sometimes the best way to enjoy sardines is straight from the tin with a slice of fresh bread. For those who aren’t quite ready to make that leap yet, a serve-yourself situation is definitely the way to go.

Take a cue from the standard cheeseboard and assemble a similar situation with ingredients that complement the fish. Opt for a variety of crackers and sliced bread to set the foundation. Bring in an assortment of canned sardines for diverse notes (and because a little experimentation never hurt) and fill in the holes with crudites, roasted tomatoes, and seasoning.

Photography by aaron bengochea

Crispy Baked Potatoes

A starchy base is essential for sardines—perferably to soak up all that oily goodness. These crispy baked potatoes make for a mouthwatering vessel to load the fish up on. 

  • 1 lb heirloom fingerling potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil                                                           
  • 4 small garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Wash the fingerling potatoes and transfer to a sheet pan while still wet. Pop the potatoes into the oven and roast to dry for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the potatoes from the oven and drizzle on top with the olive oil. Smash the garlic cloves and add it onto the sheet pan along with the rosemary sprigs. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are golden-brown. Remove them from the oven and gently smash the potatoes with a fork. Return to the oven and roast for an additional 10 minutes, or until crisp.
  4. Season with a dash of sea salt and garnish with the parsley.

Serve the potatoes with a side of smoked olive oil sardines and lemon slices for a refreshing detail. The simple pairing of the two will result in quite a crowd-pleasing duo at your next fete. Trust us. So, next time you find yourself at the supermarket, reaching for the canned tuna, consider this alternative instead.

Photography by aaron bengochea

What’s your favorite way to eat sardines? Sound off in the comments below!

Photography by DOMINO