Close-up on a school of sardines (photo courtesy AP | Ventura County Star).  Cleaned, cooked and canned by BELA Brands (photos #2 and #3 courtesy BELA).  Open the can and…  Dig in (photo courtesy Food52).  Easy tapas, with tomato or pimento on a baguette slice (photo Wikipedia Commons).  Not-much-more-difficult sardine tapas at Nomad in New York City.
Earlier in our life, we did not care at all for sardines. We turned up our nose at this “cat food.” That’s because what was available in supermarkets then was of pretty low quality. Many Americans grew up eschewing sardines.
Often, those undesirables weren’t even sardines, but sprats—a different genus, Sprattus in the same family as sardines. They are less tasty cousins of sardines.
To add to the confusion, sprats are sometimes called brisling sardines, after a canned variety from Norway.
The sought-after European sardine, also called the pilchard sardine (photo #1), is species Sardina pilchardus Walbaum. You won’t find those words on a can: You have to know the best brands.
Now we’ve become a foodie nation, and grocers are offering the world’s best. In sardines, that’s the BELA brand. They’re a boon for Mediterranean and Paleo Diet followers, as well as for anyone wanting a quick meal with quality protein.
Check out the way we enjoy them, below.
And did we mention they’re just $3 a can?
The premium quality “gourmet” sardines from Bela Brands (photos #2, #3 and #4) have found their way into many foodie homes.
The company also sells premium canned mackerel fillets and skipjack tuna in jars; but given the number of words in this article alone, we’ll have to feature them another time.
BELA Brand Seafood is a family-owned business which has been sustainably fishing the southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve, for generations.
The large, juicy, delicious Portuguese sardines have been the main crop in this region for centuries. BELA lays claim to be the best canned sardine there is:
They’re the only Portuguese sardines packed within 8 hours of catch, for the finest flavor.
The fish are carefully washed and cleaned by hand and then cooked—one of the few brands of sardines that are cooked prior to canning.
In fact, they’re twice-cooked, which increases the proteins. One low-calorie serving delivers 11g of protein, omega-3s, vitamin D and calcium.
Full, premium fillets are packed fresh in organic extra virgin olive oil and organic sauces.
Sustainably wild-caught in nets, certified kosher (OU), gluten free and certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
BELA Lightly Smoked Portuguese Sardines in Olive Oil.
BELA Lightly Smoked Portuguese Sardines in Lemon Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
BELA Lightly Smoked Portuguese Sardines in Tomato Sauce.
BELA Lightly Smoked Portuguese Sardines in Spring Water.
And, you get to choose your flavorings, except in the spring water option. Otherwise, the sardines nestle in seasoned organic olive oil:
HOW WE ENJOY BELA SARDINES
You can eat them at every meal of the day.
_Eggs Benedict à la Portugal.
_On buttered toast or avocado toast.
_On a grilled vegetable sandwich, with optional mozzarella.
_A sardine Cobb salad, in addition to, or replacing, the chicken.
_A Niçoise salad, in addition to or replacing the tuna; spinach salad with hard-boiled egg.
_Chirashi-style, on a bed of sushi rice or regular rice, with an assortment of vegetables (raw, cooked or pickled, sliced radishes, seaweed or what you feel like. Photo #7, below, adds an egg for a super-protein bowl.
_Place the fillets on top of the salad, or the salad on top of the fillets—for example, under a crown of arugula, mesclun or watercress.
_On pizza: Who needs anchovies?
_With a glass of wine at brunch or cocktails (see photos #5 and #6).
_We top Finn Crisp flatbread with sardines and pickled onions.
_Place pieces on toothpicks and serve with beer and wine.
_Add a piece to a cucumber slice, cracker or toast point.