Grilled Sardines on the BBQ are one of the delectable signs of summer, and one of my warm weather favourites. Among the most sustainable seafood choices, sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have very low levels of mercury relative to larger fish, which makes them both a healthy and delicious food choice. Also, just three ounces contains more calcium than a glass of milk. I usually buy fresh sardines from my local fishmonger at Toronto's St Lawrence Market and get them to gut and clean the little guys so I don't have to! The crispy, smoky skin and moist, tender flesh that results from the BBQ grilling method in this fabulous recipe, makes an irresistible culinary combination.
Sardines stuffed with fresh thyme and marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper and hot chili flakes
and topped with some fresh sprigs of rosemary
The sardines are best rinsed, drained and dried before marinating in olive oil and seasoned with coarse sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and a light sprinkling of dried chili flakes. I like to tuck a sprig of fresh thyme inside each of the sardines for extra flavour, and top with sliced lemons and fresh rosemary. Covered and refrigerated, the sardines can be left to marinate from 30 minutes up to 2 days. The sardines and slices of lemon are then placed on a pre-heated grill which has been lightly brushed with some olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking, and barbecued for about 2 to 3 minutes per side, turning just once to ensure the skin becomes golden brown and crispy.
The sardines and lemons doing they're lovely thing on the BBQ
Garnished with grilled lemon and some fresh herbs, I finished the grilled sardines with some fennel fronds that I had on hand, which added a lovely subtle anise flavour to the dish. Fast and delicious, this easy protein-rich recipe for Grilled Fresh Sardines with Lemon & Herbs is a terrific dish for the sultry days of summer, and makes a fabulous first course or light summer supper with a simple Mediterraean-inspired salad.
4 fresh Sardines, about 6-8" each, cleaned by your fishmonger
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried chili peppers
4 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
Select 4 healthy bright eyed sardines from your local fish market and get the fish monger to gut and clean the fish for you.
Before marinating the sardines, rinse out the cavities and drain well on some paper towel. Dry well with paper towels and lay them on a platter. Tuck one long sprig of thyme inside each of the sardines, then pour 1/4 cup of olive oil over the fish, making sure the fish are well covered top and bottom — I like to use my hands to do this. Season with coarse sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, a sprinkling of dried red chilis and top with two sprigs of fresh rosemary. Place some sliced lemon around the fish, coating with some oil from the platter. Cover the platter with cling film, refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24-hours, turning and re-seasoning the fish once or twice.
To cook the sardines, place the fish and lemon slices on a pre-heated BBQ and lightly brush the grill with some oil so the fish don't stick. Break the rosemary over the fish once they go on the BBQ. Grill the sardines 2 to 3 minutes per side, turning them only once to ensure the skin becomes golden brown and crispy. Serve with the grilled lemon and garnish with some fresh herbs. I had fennel fronds on hand which added a subtle anise flavour to the sardines.