packed like sardines

It’s been scorching in Central New York since last week, and the weather gurus are promising two more weeks of melting madness. I’m a Northerner at heart — heat like this makes me irritable at best. In our second floor, “afternoon sun-magnet” apartment, the temperature easily soars ten degrees above the outside world. If I wanted to live in a dry sauna, I would’ve installed cedar wall paneling.

Surviving Syracuse heat waves has turned into a bit of a game: We’ll attend any cookout or BBQ we’re invited to, and even jump at the chance to run an errand for a friend at the mall. Mid-day showers have become a ritual, and I haven’t turned my stove on in weeks. We’ve even moved our 9 pm cocktail hour outside into our “front yard,” which, if you lack the imagination, bears an uncanny resemblance to a parking lot.


And, after completing three triathlons this season, swimming and biking will replace running for a few more days.

Just when I’d started to accept my regular afternoon evacuation to pool, cafe, or library, things took a turn for the better: A second air conditioner was bestowed upon us. The saying  “many hands make light work” turns out to be true in the appliance world as well. I guess all our bedroom unit needed was a friend.


And then, as our living space began to inch toward bearable, we inherited a charcoal grill. On the way home from the beach yesterday we picked up some corn (from a roadside stand), wood charcoal (from a big-box store), and sardines (from a boutique fish stop).


Cooking over coals isn’t as glamorous as using the Cadillac back-porch grills: It’s far from instant, and you sort of have to crouch over the grill to tend the food. But it was delicious anyway. Skewers of fresh bright vegetables and local corn complemented the little fish perfectly. At 1.5 grams of omega-3s per 3.5 ounces, sardines are near the top of the omega-3 pyramid and a cheaper alternative to salmon.* They’re also low in mercury, and a best choice in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch initiative.


This past year I started eating canned sardines instead of buying pricey fish oil supplements. Last night, freshly roasted with their skin scarred crisp and brown from the heat, they were a whole different catch.

*Source: The Health Effects of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Seafoods

Grilled Fresh Sardines

fresh sardines, gutted (or frozen and thawed)

salt and pepper

fresh lemons

  1. Set the grill to medium heat. Salt and pepper the fish generously. Grill for a 4-5 minutes per side or until the skin has blistered and serve with fresh lemon wedges.

5 thoughts on “packed like sardines

  1. August 17, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Wow what great photos!!! I can just see you there in your wee back yard- you both look wonderful! Never had fresh sardines…wonder if you can get them in Winnipeg…
    Mom W

  2. August 17, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Yum! Can you come and cook for me?

  3. mike
    August 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    where in sunny CNY did you find the fresh sardines?

  4. dinnerwithjulie
    August 22, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Yes – I’m so glad to see other people cooking with sardines! so good for you, and so cheap. And tasty!

  5. 26miler
    August 26, 2009 at 9:07 am

    grilling sardines sounds good. I’ll have to try that.

    when it come to grilling corn, I tend to peel back only a few of the husks and then soak the ear of corn in water for 45 minutes or so. I’ve found that grilling corn with the husk and silk on lends to a much more concentrated corn flavor.