When it comes to sardines, I find that most people are either lovers or haters. Which camp do you fall into?
Whenever I mention to people that I like to cook sardines, they usually give me a strange look. However, these small, oily fish are packed full of nutrients (including omega-3 fatty acids) and flavor, can be fished sustainably, and are an inexpensive source of protein. I first discovered sardines (sardelles) in Greece and am happy when I find fresh sardines back in the states.
While I’ve been known to eat my fair share of canned sardines, they’re best when fresh out of the sea and grilled. You needn’t do much with fresh sardines. They are really flavorful on their own and have a stronger flavor than most white fish. I just add a little salt and pepper, or smoked hot paprika, before grilling. Make sure to oil the grill or the sardines will stick. They need 3-4 minutes per side. When you feel them start to give way from the grate, they are ready to flip.
Sardines are great on their own (with a squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of parsley) or you can accompany them with a warm, Sicilian olive oil and oregano sauce known as Salmorigano (from salamoia which means ‘light brine’).
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon fresh oregano (finely chopped) or 1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch dried chile flakes
2 tablespoon simmering water
Place the garlic slices in a mortar and pound into a rough paste. Add a pinch of salt and pound until smooth. Add the oregano, olive oil, black pepper, and dried chili flakes, pounding lightly. Cover and store at room temperature. Just before serving, add the simmering water, squeeze in the lemon juice, and whisk. Spoon over the fish and eat immediately.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Anthelme Brillat-Savarin