Fresh sardines with zucchini, herb and caper salad

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

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.

6 Responses to “Fresh sardines with zucchini, herb and caper salad”

  1. Preeta Says:

    So happy to see lots of new posts! I adore fresh sardines — especially whole ones done on the grill — and this looks terribly yummy. I’d also try out your kimchi-and-egg thing in a heartbeat if I could only find kimchi here in rural France.

  2. Meg Says:

    Thanks Preeta! We had this again tonight, but with some really good tinned sardines. Still nice, but nothing beats fresh ones.

    It’s a bummer that you can’t get kimchi – but if you were keen you could maybe try making your own? I was planning to, until I saw a jar of nice-looking kimchi at the local grocer and succumbed to laziness. I’d bookmarked a couple of fairly simple recipes, so on the offchance that you are feeling enthusiastic and can find some basic asian ingredients, here are a couple of links:

    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Traditional-Napa-Cabbage-Kimchi-233839
    http://jeroxie.com/addiction/meatless-mondays-28-kimchi

    I am really loving the kimchi – I’ve had the fried rice a couple of times and am planning another scallion and kimchi pancake for dinner tomorrow since I’ll be getting home late and need something quick. Ah kimchi, you are delicious.

  3. Preeta Says:

    Thank you, Meg, for the links! I might just try it if I get desperate enough. I have a 17-month-old daughter and between her and my work I don’t have a ton of time for culinary experiments, but kimchi *might* be worth the trouble 🙂 .

  4. Meg Says:

    Heh, even without a 17-month old I sometimes (like last night) find it hard to find time to cook *anything*, so I completely sympathise! Good luck if you try it; if not then I’m sure you’re surrounded by lots of other delicious things in France 🙂

  5. Matt Says:

    Oh how I wish I could get fresh sardines……

    It will be the lack of good bread and fresh sardines that will drive me back to civilization

  6. Meg Says:

    Even in Brissie I can’t always find them – been denied many times at the fishmonger when I asked for them. But there are few things better!