Sardine Puffs

I know, these could not sound less appetizing. They might have come straight from the 60s, when party food tended toward gellied, deviled, Spammy, whipped canapé things. And I’m not going to tell you to go on the Sardine Diet (which actually is a thing, believe it or not), but they are very tasty, and I will make a case for them:

To sum: my Dad has been pestering me to read a new(ish) book written by Taras Grescoe called Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood. His main point is that we would all be healthier and fish stocks in better shape if we ate lower on the food chain – that is the bottom-feeders – small fish and crustaceans such as sardines, anchovies, mackerel, squid and octopus whose stocks are thriving in the absence of bigger fish – predators such as tuna, cod and shark, which are being overfished. (In fact, their populations are depleting in a big way.) It’s also the larger predatory fish that have been found to be higher in mercury, which tends to accumulate to some degree in all fish but especially in shark, swordfish, tuna (particularly albacore), escolar, marlin and orange roughy, which absorb mercury from the prey they eat, causing it to become more concentrated as it moves further up the food chain.

So the bottomfeeders – and particularly the 11 or so species that are packaged as sardines (herring, smelt, pilchard, et al.) and feed on algae and other green stuff – are the best for us nutritionally and environmentally. Plus they’re cheap. Brisling sardines (King Oscar cans them) are Norweigan sardines that are particularly small and benign – you can generally tell the fishiness of sardines by their size and how badly roughed up they are when you open the can – one I picked up at the dollar store from Portugal contained about 3 mangled fish, and the Mediterranean-style brisling sardines I bought at the grocery store in the same sized can contained 12 perfectly formed wee silver fish. Mediterranean-style means they were packed in olive oil with olives, garlic, herbs and red pepper, and were phenomenal mashed with a bit of mayo, grated onion and some snipped parsley, spread on toast, cut into triangles and toasted again, inspired by the Sardine Puffs I found on Epicurious. (It won’t produce 120 appetizers, by the way.) Sardines are particularly high in omega 3 fatty acids and are of course packed with everything else that makes fish so good for you – try using a can or two in your next tuna casserole. They really aren’t any fishier than tuna. Sardines on toast is also popular, and my Grandad used to eat sardine sandwiches dipped in apple cider vinegar – his 94 year old taste buds needed some extra stimulus, I guess.

In other news, I’m down 10 lbs as of this morning. (According to my home scale, which I think I’ll stick to for now in order to maintain some sort of continuity.) Ten pounds isn’t as visually significant as it sounds on an almost 6′ frame – I still look the same, but feel better, my jeans are a bit less strained, and it’s nice to have my freighter moving in the right direction. (Maybe in doing so I’ll go from freighter to streamliner?) And it’s a thrilling feeling to know that I can lose ten, because that means I can lose the next. And the next. And it really is up to me. And it’s not as massive a deal as it was when I fretted, uncomfortably in my skin, about having to lose it – you get to a point where it’s just easier to do something about it than to not.

Speaking of my Grandad, he used to have a saying (many actually, as I’m sure most Grandads do, but this one particularly stuck): Life is hard by the yard – by the inch it’s a cinch. When you’re staring down the barrel of 100 pounds to lose it can be more than a little daunting, and easy to put off until tomorrow, or Monday, or after your birthday party, knowing that it’s going to take a really long time to get where you’re going. But imagine if you started inching in that direction a year ago? It’s easy to get caught up in the desire for immediate gratification, and sucks when you choose a long walk rather than a lie on the couch and yet come home to the exact same reflection in the mirror, but that’s how it works. So I break up the war into smaller battles: the first 10 (which is always the quickest to go, I’m sad to say), and now 8 left before I see that needle dip below 200 again, at which point I’ll maybe have a cupcake and a latte while I ponder my next destination.

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January 14 2009 10:48 pm | appetizers and fish

25 Responses to “Sardine Puffs”

  1. Barb on 15 Jan 2009 at 7:05 am #

    Great work Julie! I managed to “lose” 1 1/2. Not much but as you say, it’s heading in the right direction. I used to eat and enjoy the odd can of sardines on toast. Haven’t had them in ages. I might pick up a can next time I’m shopping. Your photo looks like there is some cheese on top of the puffs. Is that how the sardine looks toasted?

  2. JulieVR on 15 Jan 2009 at 7:09 am #

    Nope, no cheese! Just the sardines (which are packed with bell peppers and olives), mayo, onion and parsley. (Less mayo than the original recipe calls for!) Spread on toasted bread then trim the crusts and cut into 4 triangles, pop in the oven or toaster oven and toast again. Very tasty!

  3. Corine on 15 Jan 2009 at 7:24 am #

    Hi Julie
    Congrats on losing 10 lbs already. It’s only the 15th of Jan. Like you, my pants were feeling very snug and I jumped back on the bandwagon as well. My goals aren’t as lofty as yours (I have about 20 lbs to lose), but I’m back on to oatmeal for breakfast with no sugar added syrup, less snacking on bad stuff and back on to the exercise. I’ve already signed up/committed to one half marathon this year to help me stick to my plan.

  4. sue.d on 15 Jan 2009 at 7:44 am #

    I’m loving sardines more and more these days. Your puffs look really good, and everything is stuff that we usually already have in the house.

    Good on yah, girl. I love the feeling of making headway, even modest headway in my case, on whatever it is that needs a bit of work in my life.

  5. Colleen on 15 Jan 2009 at 8:12 am #

    I have always loved sardines – as a child my mom would serve them with Kraft Dinner. Still eat the sardines but not the KD. I am down 13 1/2 pounds but it has take me since Sept. and you are right – 100 is way too much to think about. I look at increments of 5 and hope to make 15 by Monday. I joined WW and it seems to be working for me – this time around. Keep up the good work and thanks for continuing with your blog. I use many recipes and dinner ideas from it.

  6. Manon on 15 Jan 2009 at 8:18 am #

    Good for you Julie….Unfortunatly I’ve been sick this week so I haven’t moved as much as I should, so I haven’t loss anything.
    With me if I don’t move, I don’t loose!
    Julie, what is your meal plan like?
    I know what is good for me, but I don’t always know how many calories things are…so makes it hard to manage my eating by myself…that’s why I tend to need a meal plan.
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks a lot,

    Manon from Ontario 226 stil ;(

  7. Ellen on 15 Jan 2009 at 8:24 am #

    Hi Julie-
    If you have a free moment, check out Mark Bittman’s new book, Food Matters. It is incredibly enlightening!

  8. Erica B. on 15 Jan 2009 at 8:25 am #

    -10 now that’s progress Congratulations Julie!:D

    My scale is also headed in the right direction – just a little slower…I’m -1 for the week.

  9. Pat on 15 Jan 2009 at 8:36 am #

    Congratulations, Julie! My weight loss journey has been easier than most because I don’t have other mouths to feed (except my 4 legged friend, Molly), and thus have only my foods in the kitchen.

    Julie, YOU can’t avoid being around food, so your resolve must always be on alert.

    Three sayings have helped me over the past 14 months.

    1. Follow the “HALT” program. Never get too HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY or TIRED.

    2. Nothing TASTES as good as healthy eating feels.

    3. What you eat in PRIVATE shows in PUBLIC!

    May your resolve to eat healthy in 2009 be as strong as your resolve to share your dinners in 2008!!! It’s a daily commitment. You can do it.

  10. robyn on 15 Jan 2009 at 9:06 am #

    Pat, I think #3 is the BEST piece of advice! I think that’s the part we forget sometimes….

  11. JulieVR on 15 Jan 2009 at 9:28 am #

    I can’t say I ever agreed with #2 – whomever first said this must not have ever had a hot fudge sundae from Peters, or a caramel brioche from Manuel Latruwe, or butter chicken and chewy garlic naan from the Taj… Yes eating healthy feels good. But man does food ever taste good too.

    It’s tough to compare the two – instant gratification (food) vs. something that will come months (or even years) down the road! It’s hard to hold off for something, particularly when you don’t fully believe it’s going to ever come.

    Yes, it’s unfair that food is the only addiction that other people can see the evidence of – you can’t tell a smoker to look at him or her, or a gambler, drug addict or alcoholic. Their addictions are far easier hidden from the rest of the world.. not to mention the many free programs available to them to gain control of their addictions. And you can’t quit eating cold turkey!

  12. Heidi on 15 Jan 2009 at 9:43 am #

    My overeating is an addiction like smoking or alcoholism but one I can’t avoid entirely.
    I don’t eat from hunger but from a dozen other reasons.

    It doesn’t help if well-meaning loved ones shove food at me and feel insulted if I don’t have a second-helping or try all three desserts. I know it’s up to me to have the strength to resist but with these in-laws it seems to be an enormous insult.

    Weight loss doesn’t cost a penny – yet all the money in the world can’t buy it (think Oprah).
    In fact, by eating at home, not buying funk food, eating less (much less!) and smarter – I’m saving money.

    I love the direction your blog has taken, you are touching our hearts.

  13. Manon on 15 Jan 2009 at 10:11 am #

    Hey what happened to Lou? your dog?

    Curious Manon from ontario

  14. Avery on 15 Jan 2009 at 10:39 am #

    I swear Ruby is as smart and healthy as she is because I ate sardines (on ancient grains toast or just from the tin with some s&p) on a regular basis when I was pregnant. Whenever they’re on sale (sometimes as cheap as 89 cents a tin!) I always stock up… Mike just watches me eat them with facination, but won’t touch ’em. Perhaps he would if they were “puffed”…?

  15. JoJo on 15 Jan 2009 at 11:30 am #

    The problem with comparing eating to other addictions is that one must continue partake of eating to some degree – one cannot avoid food entirely, as one conceivably could completely avoid cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. So decisions must constantly be made.

  16. elektra on 15 Jan 2009 at 11:33 am #

    sardines sound good to me in theory but i re-enact that scene from ‘Big’, the one when Tom Hanks–a 12 year old in a 35 year old body–tries caviar and has to scrape his tongue with a napkin.

    it ain’t pretty.

  17. Cheryl on 15 Jan 2009 at 12:25 pm #

    Mackerel is my new favourite fish. I always liked it at the sushi bar, but we caught some on our recent trip to Mexico and I am in love… Now to find some here.
    Congrats on the 10 pounds! Forward ho…

  18. Lana on 15 Jan 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    Congratulations, Julie!
    I am down 1.5 this week and am trying to remember what someone posted earlier in the week about not letting the number on the scale determine my mood. It IS in the right direction, and I feel great from the fitness classes I joined at work, so THAT is what matters.
    Oh! And those puffs look DEElish. I just might have to give that a try.

  19. V on 15 Jan 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    Congratulations Julie on your 10 lb loss!

  20. pauline on 15 Jan 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    congrats Julie. Nothing like seeing the nubers go down to keep you going. I think I am trying to gain weight I am eating anything and everything. Gotta get on the wagon. what the H… is wrong with me.

  21. Nancy on 15 Jan 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    I’m very impressed, I stayed the same. I think it was the chocolate panini’s the other night, or maybe the coconut milk. I have yet to try coconut milk in my aerator on the fresh banana cream pie with gluten free crumbs as the crust.
    Great class, thanks so much!!!

  22. claire on 16 Jan 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    Good timing Julie! I just read an interview with Taras Grescoe on Salon, and was in Community Natural Foods yesterday thinking, “what the heck do you do with mackerels..” (another of the fish he recommended..) This recipe looks like a good place to start.

  23. andrea on 16 Jan 2009 at 7:57 pm #

    Do you eat the heads too? That seems icky to me. I don’t even like salmon with bones in it – finding a can of boneless / skinless canned stuff was a revelation. We avoid tuna now for the reasons you mention and won’t give it to the kids either. see for lots of information – how a fish is caught / raised is apparently pretty key to sustainability.

  24. JulieVR on 16 Jan 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    No I don’t eat the heads. Those popping eyeballs… typically they have been beheaded and gutted before being canned. If you buy them fresh or frozen you could do it yourself…

  25. Amy on 20 Jul 2010 at 8:30 am #

    2010… Wondering how are you doing after a year or so … I just found your blog, having googled Brisling Sardines and have been inching for a couple years now with several set backs… still there is progress.

    Going to try these puffs today.

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