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Recipes: Sardines are trendy. Here’s how to turn them into a meal

Inexpensive yet rich in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, canned sardines are having a moment.

Beets with dill yogurt and sardines (left) and roasted pepper and sardine flatbread with arugula (right).
Photos by anthony tieuli; food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc.
Beets with dill yogurt and sardines (left) and roasted pepper and sardine flatbread with arugula (right).

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I am that guy. The one who will stand over the sink, eating sardines right out of the can, on crackers, with just a squeeze of lemon. And you know what? When that’s my lunch or dinner (or sometimes breakfast), I don’t feel like a sad sack, but rather, healthy and happy: Sardines are protein-heavy, low-calorie, and especially rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re delicious. And to top it off, they’re inexpensive.

More and more people are coming to agree with me, as canned sardines start to get the love they deserve. Here are three recipes that incorporate these little powerhouse fish, all of which would serve as a nice lunch or light dinner — seated at the table or standing at the sink!

ROASTED PEPPER AND SARDINE FLATBREADS WITH ARUGULA

Makes about four 7-inch-diameter flatbreads

Make the flatbreads more of a substantial meal by putting down a layer of white beans, either pureed or simply mashed and seasoned, before adding the sardines. Because of the oil in the marinade, water-packed sardines are fine here. Baby greens, especially those with a mineral or bitter note to their flavor, are fine in place of the arugula.

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1 teaspoon pressed or grated garlic (about 1 large clove)

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper

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2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed, and cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 4-ounce cans sardines, water- or oil-packed, drained well

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

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4 flatbreads or naans, roughly 7 inches in diameter or length, toasted and warm, if desired

2 cups (loosely packed) arugula, roughly chopped

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ground black pepper to taste and whisk to dissolve the salt. Vigorously whisk in the olive oil. Add the roasted peppers, toss to combine, and set aside to marinate for about 1 hour. Add the parsley and mix it in. Adjust the seasoning with salt, black pepper, or vinegar if necessary.

In a small bowl, gently toss the sardines with the lemon juice and salt and ground black pepper to taste (the fish will break apart, but try to leave some meaty chunks). Divide the sardines among the flatbreads and spread evenly. Using a slotted spoon or fork, divide the peppers among the flatbreads, spreading evenly over the sardines.

Add the arugula to the dressing left in the bowl and toss to coat. Divide the arugula among the flatbreads, spreading it evenly over the peppers and sardines on each, and serve at once.

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BEETS WITH DILL YOGURT AND SARDINES

Serves 4

Packaged cooked fresh beets (often prepared by steaming or sous vide and vacuum-packed) far outclass the canned and jarred varieties. To make this simple recipe easier yet, use pickled or marinated beets and skip the homemade vinaigrette.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more, to taste

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound cooked beets, cut into

½-inch-wide sticks (about 3 cups)

¼ cup minced shallot (about 1 medium)

¾ cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus torn sprigs for garnish

2 4-ounce cans sardines, preferably packed in extra-virgin olive oil, drained

In a medium bowl, whisk 1½ tablespoons lemon juice, honey, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste until the honey and salt are dissolved. Vigorously whisk in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil to blend. Add the beets and shallot, toss to combine, and set aside to meld the flavors, about 15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and lemon juice if necessary.

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, chopped dill, remaining olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary, and set aside.

In another small bowl, gently toss the sardines with the remaining 1½ teaspoons lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste (the fish will break apart, but try to leave the pieces as large as possible).

Divide the beets evenly among 4 serving plates. Top with a portion of the sardines and about 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture. Sprinkle with small sprigs of dill and serve at once.

TIP: CUTTING CORNERS

 Cutting a raw spaghetti squash in half can be difficult, but a microwave eases matters. Pierce the squash four or five times with a fork or paring knife and microwave it whole for about 5 minutes. It will soften slightly, and when cool  enough to handle can be halved with a little less effort.
anthony tieuli
Cutting a raw spaghetti squash in half can be difficult, but a microwave eases matters. Pierce the squash four or five times with a fork or paring knife and microwave it whole for about 5 minutes. It will soften slightly, and when cool enough to handle can be halved with a little less effort.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH ROSEMARY-ORANGE SAUCE AND SARDINES

Makes about 6 cups

1 small spaghetti squash (about 3½ pounds), halved lengthwise (see tip) and seeded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon pressed or grated garlic (about 5 medium cloves)

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth or water

½ cup thawed orange juice concentrate

1 tablespoon honey

1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 4-ounce cans sardines, preferably packed in extra-virgin olive oil, drained

2/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted and cooled

With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the squash halves, cut sides down, in a large rimmed baking dish and roast until tender enough to pierce with a paring knife with minimal resistance, about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape the flesh from the shells. Place squash flesh in a large strainer set over a bowl to drain for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add the chicken broth, orange juice concentrate, and honey, adjust heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced by about 25 percent. Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and black pepper to taste and stir. Remove 2 tablespoons sauce to a small bowl and set aside. Add the drained squash to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is heated through, about 5 minutes longer. Add most of the parsley to the skillet and stir to mix. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, gently toss the sardines with the remaining 1½ teaspoons of lemon juice and salt and black pepper to taste. Add the reserved sauce and gently fold to coat (the sardines will break apart, but try to leave the pieces as large as possible).

Scrape the squash into a serving dish, arrange the sardines over the top, sprinkle with the remaining parsley and a couple of tablespoons of the pine nuts, and serve at once, passing the remaining pine nuts separately.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.