Tiny Swimmers

Fresh sardines are back--and they're good for you

Fresh sardines, once threatened by population decline, are experiencing a rebirth–in large part thanks to their popularity with chefs and pilchard enthusiast groups such as the Sardinistas.

And they've emerged as a greener, more healthful, omega-3-packed alternative to carnivorous fish such as tuna and swordfish, which have higher levels of mercury and PCBs. Here are our favorite preparations from both coasts:

New York At Anthos Upstairs, chef Michael Psilakis pairs pickled sardines with creamy manouri cheese and a dainty Greek salad. And chef Missy Robbins serves cured sardines with a tangy eggplant caponata (pictured) at the new A Voce Columbus.

San Francisco Brett Emerson of Contigo Kitchen + Cava sears sardines on his wood-burning stove, then serves them over toasted baguettes with roasted peppers and pistachio-mint sauce. At Nopa, Laurence Jossel prepares locally harvested sardines using the traditional Venetian saor technique (escabeche in Spain), wherein the fish are first fried, then cured in a mixture of vinegar, onions, raisins, currants and pine nuts.

Editor's note: Anthos Upstairs has closed.