25 July 2009

Grilled Lemony Sardines

I like small fish. Little tiny ones: sardines and smelts and rainbow trout and lots of other varieties I don't know the name for. In Beirut one summer, a group of friends and I stopped in one of the large fish houses at the lower end of the Corniche. After ordering drinks, the waiter asked us what we would like, though no menus had been presented. After some confusion, we were lead to a large display of fish on ice, where we could pick what we wanted and how it would be prepared. Most of the fish were tiny, about ten different varieties of fish ranging from the size of your pinky to the length of a pencil. We ordered haphazardly and hoped for the best.

Everything that came out of the kitchen was excellent, particularly the little fish which had been battered and deep fried, but also the smokier grilled ones. Ever since then, if I see little fresh fish in a market (sadly rare in the States), I'm tempted to buy them.

Fresh sardines are in season now, and I couldn't resist picking some up. Sardines are also one of the few undebatedly sustainable fish left to eat (although I fear someone will dispute me in the comments). I grilled them with whole slices of lemon and a bath of garlicky olive oil.

Having been over-zealous, I faced a week of sardine sandwich eating for lunch. This is not a bad thing: a toasted bun layered with a few leaves of spinach, sardines, grilled whole lemon slices, and goat cheese is a pretty good thing. However, most of my colleagues eat Thai take-out for lunch, and I was sheepishly assembling my sardine sandwich for lunch when a colleague stopped me. He loved sardines he said, and was eager to know where to get fresh ones and how to cook them. Relieved, I explained the following recipe to him.

Grilled Lemony Sardines

1 lb fresh sardines, gutted and rinsed
2 large thin-skinned lemons, sliced as thinly as possible
3 tbl olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 pinch Aleppo pepper
sea salt, to taste

1. Preheat a grill, or preheat your oven to 475 F. If you're using a grill you'll want some sort of grill pan.
2. Combine oil, garlic, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the sardines and toss to coat.
3. Grease your grill pan or baking sheet. Scatter half the lemon slices on the pan. Spread the sardines over top- try not to crowd them so they cook evenly. Sprinkle with some more salt. Top with remaining lemon.
4. Grill the sardines for about 10 minutes, tossing everything around mid-way through, until sardines are done and lemons are soft. If using the oven it may take 12-15 minutes.


adele said...

Mmm. I love fresh sardines. I wish they were more easily available!

Sam said...

I love fresh fish. It really doesn't need much. Have you ever tried fresh anjovis. I can't get them around here to bad because they're Delicious!

The New Girl said...

I love fresh sardines too, but never see them for sale in Philadelphia or the outlying area. Good to know about being in season now...I'll have to make a few lunchtime calls to see if I can find any to become dinner tonight.

Lee said...

Just because you don't see it at your local fish market doesn't mean it's not available. Ask. You may have to buy a bit more than you want, but they freeze just fine, especially if you're going to grill them. Don't expect bloody Whole Food$ to stock them; go to your local italian, Hispanic, Greek, whatever mediterranean area. They're there, I promise.

Alejandra Ramos said...

I've always been intimidated by the little sardines in the counter, although I never hesitate to order them when possible. I know I need to just suck it up and give it a try. And that sandwich you described sounds absolutely lovely

figtree said...

This post makes me want to go out and buy sardines right now! They look delicious!!Figtreeapps

lubnakarim06 said...

Wow...that's an flavourful recipe.....looks drool worthy....

andrew woffinden said...

Hi, how do you deal with bones in sardines? I'm just making your lamb meatballs with apricot and prune sauce, so far so good..

laura ezell said...

Call me naive but I have never even thought to try and seek out fresh sardines. This post has me on a mission to find them, the garlic and lemon in this recipe sound divine. It is quite difficult to read any post on Desert Candy without salivating!

Whim Tart

unclelonghair said...

I was just reading one of Anthony Bourdain's recipes that calls for little fish like this (friture), which is basically little fish like this (smaller the better) gutted, lightly floured, and fried.

Anyone know of a place in DC to get the little critters?

Anna (Morsels and Musings) said...

it's cold and rainy in sydney today and these photos make me think of warm, sunny days. good wine, good friends, good fish! can't wait for summer!