Mark and I love fresh sardines. Grilled with lemon and garlic, stuffed, or adding to a pasta dish are some favorite preparations. When we make them, we reach for our favorite pairing, a Spanish Rosado.
Sardines are more popular now and when in season, you can sometimes spot them at US fish markets. Here in Bordeaux they’re abundant, as well as in Spain.
We just returned from Spain where indulging in sardines was mandatory. And in doing so we had a great laugh remembering our first sardine experience. Their short season started July 1st so I thought I’d humor you with our faux pas and leave a recipe. Summer and sardines just go together, especially if you have a grill!
Mark and I arrived at the Barcelona flat at 5:00 p.m. Showering unveiled a second wind and off we went into the streets crawling with people. Our quest? Locate a tapas bar from which we’d kick off our one-month food, wine and hiking adventure in northern Spain. “BA2” was off to a good start.
Hunger pangs took over in front a tapas bar in the Barri Gotic (gothic quarter). Finding a perfect table outside, we started with my craving: Boquerones en Vinagre (silver backed anchovies cured in vinegar then drizzled with olive oil) and an order of tomato bread. With two glasses of Rosado (Spanish dry rose), we were settling in comfortably.
The waiter suggested we try Boquerones Rebozados.
Another round of Rosados required, accompanied by a small gift of mussels.
Our final tapa arrived – Sardinas a la Plancha con Perejil (grilled sardines with parsley). Previously, we’d only enjoyed sardines from a can. Neither Mark nor I had seen them fresh which as those who eat them know, are much bigger. And they were a plate load!
Lynn: “Just cut them up and eat them!”
Mark: “Are you sure? They’re bigger, bones and all?”
Lynn: “Ah, yeah, I think so. I think they’re softer. Why not?”
Surprise! What a mess. Looking sheepishly at an adjacent table we discovered you cut them in half and pull the main spine bone out. A perfect tourista moment.
I hope anyone not familiar with fresh sardines isn’t scared away! They’re quite tasty and pair nicely with various white and rosé wines. An added bonus – they’re high in omega 3 fatty acids. Here’s an easy, tasty recipe that can be altered to suit your taste.
- 5 sardines, cleaned with spine, head and tail removed
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 heaping teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (15 ml)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley (1/2 of a bunch)
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh mint (1/2 of a bunch)
- ½ teaspoon smoked Paprika (2.5 g)
- ¼ cup bread crumbs (optional)
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Combine the garlic, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, parsley, mint, and paprika; mix to combine. If using breadcrumbs and Parmesan, mix them in. The mixture should be moist, not too dry or wet. Taste and add additional olive oil and/or lemon juice as desired, and to obtain consistency.
- Stuff each sardine with a heaping tablespoon of gremolata, making sure to not over fill. Close each and secure with a few toothpicks. Alternatively, if grilling you can wrap them individually in foil.
- To grill: Heat grill to medium-high. Clean and oil grates, place sardine foil packs on grill and cook 3-5 minutes. Turn over cooking the second side the same. (If you secure them with toothpicks, you can carefully put them directly on the grill.)
- If pan searing: Add about a tablespoon of oil to a pan and heat over medium-high. When warm, add sardines (they should sizzle slightly) being careful not to crowd. You may have to cook them in two batches. Sear the first side about 3-5 minutes. Flip and do the same to the second side to crispy golden brown.
- Serve immediately with roasted baby potatoes, your favorite grilled vegetables, a mixed green salad, or anything that works for you!
- Remember to serve with a glass of chilled Spanish Rosado!
Here are two other recipes I’ve made and quite liked:
Fried Sardines with Parsley Caper Sauce from Italian Food Forever
Grilled Sardines in Grape Leaves with Lemon Sauce from Katerina Skouzina