Grilled fresh sardines. One of life’s simple delectable pleasures. I actually never tasted grilled sardines until I started traveling to Sicilia. We would spend afternoons at la spiaggia baking in the hot summer sun with all the Italians and when we had had enough, we would saunter up to the restaurant just alongside for vino and a bite to eat. At first, I would turn up my nose with memories of those awfully salty canned things we had as children. But my Italian friends faces said it all as they ate sardine after sardine and I was finally convinced to try one. Wow…They were the freshest, tastiest, crunchiest little fish I had ever tasted. They served them simply dressed with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, grilled and served with a bowl of lemons alongside. The sardines were mouthwateringly plump and juicy, tasting simply of the sea. We would linger for hours over our carafe of crisp white wine, happily munching our plates of sardines and chatting with friends until the sun left long shadows on the horizon. Dolce fa niente.
So with today being one of our first warm spring days here, fresh sardines on the grill seemed like the perfect antipasti. I am fortunate in that my fishmonger almost always has them fresh and happily cleans them for his customers (and even adds a free lemon to boot). Alongside I served a classic Sicilian sauce with an odd name – salmoriglio sauce. The name is derived from a word that means salty or briny and is a quick whirl of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley and oregano. Its tangy bite complements the freshest of fish and is a sauce I return to time and time again to complement fish, chicken and sometimes vegetables. A keeper for your recipe box.
Bon appetito! Michele
Grilled Sardines with Salmoriglio Sauce
(Sardine alle Griglia con Salsa al Salmoriglio)
Ingredients and Directions:
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1/4 cup of hot water
- 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon oregano, dried
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Sea salt and finely ground black pepper to taste
- 12 fresh sardines, cleaned
- Extra lemons, sliced thinly
- In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients up to the salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare a medium hot grill. Spray or wipe the grill with oil. Season the sardines with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. When grill is hot, grill until fish are cooked through and nicely charred, only about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Remove from grill and place on a platter. Drizzle the sauce over the sardines. Serve the extra on the side along with extra lemons. (I like to squeeze a little extra lemon juice around the platter.) Serve warm.
- Buon appetito!