Bar Bites: Grilled Sardines with Lemon, Garlic, and Paprika

Photograph: Marvin Gapultos

Despite their small size, fresh sardines have a lot going for them. They're rich in omega-3 fatty acids, so they're good for you. They're a sustainable source of seafood, so they're good for the oceans and planet. They're also incredibly inexpensive, so sardines are easy on your wallet as well. And with a rich, meaty flavor (think mackerel), sardines simply taste great—but especially so when grilled.

In fact, grilled sardines are a common menu item at many a Spanish tapas joint, where the small fish are enjoyed like corn-on-the-cob, eaten with the hands right off the bone (and yes, cutlery can be used as well).

When grilled, sardines usually need nothing more than a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sea salt. But I do like to marinate the strongly flavored fish in olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic before they hit the flames. A bit of smoked Spanish paprika in the marinade also helps to echo and extend the smoke and char from the hot grill.

Because of their small size, sardines make for a quick and easy to prepare finger food option, and when quickly crisped over an open flame, they are also great when paired with a glass of Rioja or a cold beer.