Tonight’s dinner was the delightful product of serendipity and greed. I was feeling restless when I woke up this morning, so headed out for a jaunt on the bike, planning to follow the river around New Farm and out to Newstead House. I footled over there (via various detours), lazed about on the hilly lawns for a while watching the calm river and the less calm sporty people dashing along its banks, then got back as far as the Powerhouse, where I found the path blocked off for the weekend markets.
I totally intended to wheel my way around the edge of the markets and get home for a shower, when my eye was caught by a stall selling early cherries. Stonefruit is the one thing – the only thing – I like about Brisbane summers, and the good stuff is just starting to show up now. I was caught in the cherries’ tractor beam and found myself buying half a kilo before I was fully aware of what I was doing. Once having pushed into the crowd while wheeling my bike, I figured I might as well press on through, and manfully (ha!) resisted buying the several dozen other delicious but unnecessary things that caught my eye… until I got to the fishmonger. I’ve been craving sardines for weeks. Screw the meals I’d planned for the weekend, those sardines were coming home with me. And they did. I escaped without further purchases (except for two small buffalo mozarella, which can be squeezed into the planned meals quite nicely, alright?), and spent an enjoyable afternoon planning how I was going to eat the first few fillets.
In the end I decided to make something almost precisely like this salad of Helen’s, sans anchovies. I love julienned zucchini (especially since Matt and Leonie gave me a julienne peeler so I no longer need to brave the terrifying mandoline) and this combination is crispy, fresh, and sharp, the perfect complement to some quickly panfried sardines.
Sardine dinner for one
1 medium zucchini, julienned finely
1 handful parsley leaves, torn
1 handful mint leaves, torn
2 teaspoons salted capers, soaked and drained
8 tiny cornichons, cut into slices
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon or so seed mustard
juice of half a small lemon
top quality olive oil
fresh butterflied sardines (I ate 6 small and thin ones)
good bread (a ficelle from Chouquette in this case)
Toss the zucchini, herbs, capers and cornichons together in a bowl. Make the dressing by combining the garlic, mustard and lemon juice, then whisking in olive oil to emulsify. Combine salad and dressing well.
Heat a frypan over moderate heat, and add a little olive oil. Fry the sardine fillets until just done – mine took 2 minutes on the skin side followed by about 40 seconds on the other side.
Plate up the sardines, salad and bread, and eat at once. Divine. Fresh cherries for dessert just make it even better.