OH, YES YOU CAN!

Best Health - - CONTENTS - by BONNY RE­ICHERT

Healthy, in­spired meals using canned in­gre­di­ents (trust us)

Thanks to our grow­ing in­ter­est in Span­ish and Por­tuguese flavours, tinned fish and other Mediter­ranean-style del­i­ca­cies are hav­ing a mo­ment. It’s time to get out your can opener and make room for these treats on your hol­i­day table.

Smoked oys­ters with a squeeze of lemon, sar­dines on rye toast, mashed up sal­mon with mayo — he was the only per­son I knew who ate such things. To be hon­est, I thought it was weird — un­til the day when my dad made a meal by open­ing his beloved jars and tins, along with a good loaf of bread and a salad, and called me to the table. As I ten­ta­tively nib­bled on a sar­dine sand­wich, it was more about not want­ing to hurt his feel­ings than about gen­uine ap­petite. But the dis­cov­ery was in­stan­ta­neous and mind-blow­ing. Tinned fish is briny and f lavour­ful and del­ish! Life was more ex­cit­ing from that day for­ward.

Fi­nally, my dad and I are not alone. With the grow­ing promi­nence of Span­ish and Por­tuguese f lavours pop­ping up on this side of the At­lantic, tinned fish and other pre­served Mediter­ranean-style del­i­ca­cies like seafood, beans and veg­eta­bles are hav­ing a long, de­lec­ta­ble mo­ment.

Or per­haps it’s more of a re­nais­sance, given the fond­ness of ear­lier gen­er­a­tions for stuff in a can. And we’re not talk­ing one-buck cans of sar­dines, ei­ther. To­day’s pre­served seafood may be lo­cally sourced or im­ported, but in ei­ther case, the op­tions and qual­ity have come a long way.

In fact, at trendy restau­rants like Saltie Girl in Bos­ton and Huer­tas in New York, the chefs in­cor­po­rate canned mack­erel, clams and squid into their menus, ex­plain­ing that they are choos­ing pre­served over fresh be­cause the process im­proves flavour and tex­ture. In Lon­don’s fash­ion­able Soho dis­trict, din­ers at Tin­can are taken a step fur­ther, treated to “the best tinned seafood in the world,” al­most right out of the con­tainer. Closer to home, Toronto’s Bar Raval serves tinned smoked mack­erel so good, even the oil is ir­re­sistible.

So, what is the best way to get in on the tin? From a health point of view, it’s im­por­tant to con­sider mer­cury (in the case of fish and seafood), as well as sodium, the in­tegrity of the can­ning or jar­ring process and the over­all qual­ity of the food it­self.

In terms of nu­tri­ents, mack­erel is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and pro­tein and con­tains less mer­cury than tuna. Mean­while, canned sar­dines are an ex­cel­lent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vi­ta­min D. In ad­di­tion, they are one of only a few non-meat sources of vi­ta­min B12. Canned clams are rich in min­er­als like iron, potas­sium and phos­pho­rus, high in pro­tein, low in fat and re­sis­tant to con­tam­i­nants.

In gen­eral, check la­bels and opt for prod­ucts that are caught sus­tain­ably, tested for mer­cury and BPA-free when­ever pos­si­ble. Raincoast and Ocean Brands are two good la­bels, but there are many more out there, de­pend­ing on where you shop. And that’s just fish. Jarred or tinned beans and chick­peas, roasted pep­pers, ar­ti­chokes, olives and hearts of palm can be nu­tri­ent rich and health­ful (with­out the same con­tam­i­nant con­cerns), es­pe­cially if you opt for low-sodium, or­ganic choices.

Per­haps the best news of all is the way that these su­per-con­ve­nient, rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive build­ing blocks can work for you at hol­i­day time. Sim­ply stock your pantry with a stash of qual­ity tinned treats and you will have the mak­ings of a tasty, fash­ion­able Mediter­ranean cock­tail party at a mo­ment’s no­tice. Oh, and don’t for­get the cava.

Here are three recipes to get you started. In ad­di­tion to the in­gre­di­ents called for in these dishes, keep an as­sort­ment of fresh herbs, nuts, olives and spices on hand through­out the sea­son and you’ll al­ways be ready for drop-ins.

pho­tog­ra­phy by JAMES TSE food styling by ASH­LEY DENTON prop styling by LAURA BRAN­SON

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