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Roasted Sardines with Green Garlic Gremolata

Last week I went on a little getaway to Death Valley. We were trying to catch that rare window where the weather is just right: somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-something degrees. The heat was already there, though, regularly climbing to 99 degrees in the afternoons, in the shade. Locals will scoff at this and remind you that on their terms, this is merely warm. It’s a relative thing, of course. I went away for lots of reasons – for that dry desert heat, challenging and brutal as it can be around high noon, for spring flowers and the creepy trill of coyotes at night. For remote bars in rural Nevada where the town heartthrob offers impromptu lessons in line-dancing and toothless men try to dance with you. For spring-fed swimming pools frequented by bats in the dusky evenings. For the vastness of the landscape, and what a place as wide open and desolate as that will do for mental clarity. For long walks in frightfully surreal Martian landscapes that really beg the question, How did I get here?

These sardines, on the other hand, do not beg any questions except to be eaten. They are simple, marvelous, fresh and absurdly easy to prepare. They put tinned sardines to shame. In fact, they’re hardly related. (Distant second cousins once removed, at best.) They are roasted at a very high heat in a glaze of olive oil, salt and pepper, and then topped with a simple gremolata. They come out crispy and salty and delicious, balanced by the punch of the garlic and the bright, fresh notes of the parsley and lemon. It’s all you need for a warm spring evening.

This Roasted Sardines with Green Garlic Gremolata recipe is part of the April Seasonal Food Guide.

Inspired by A16: Food + Wine
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1.5 pounds fresh sardines
3 tablespoons flatleaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon minced green garlic bulbs
zest of 1 lemon, plus juice
olive oil
sea salt + freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

If your sardines have their heads and guts, you’ll want to remove these. First, remove the head. (I yanked! So barbaric.) Next, gently open the belly beneath the rear fin. You can use your fingers. Pull the spine out and remove any guts. Rinse with cool water and pat dry.

To make the gremolata, combine the parsley, minced green garlic and lemon zest + juice. Salt to taste.

Brush both the inside and outside of the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them on a lightly greased baking dish and roast for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and top with the gremolata. Serve immediately.

  • Bianca - I love simple, fresh food- especially with springs awakening. Perfect meal for some self reflection!ReplyCancel

  • Tine - Mmm, roasted food! Roasted food always tastes good!
    Lovely recipe! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Lynda - Beautiful photo. I love the simplicity of this dish – a perfect recipe for the theme of your post. I think I need a trip to Death Valley.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Franzen ` - now, i am not a huge sardine fan. I dont usually care for fish that has been pickled, or perserved in any way. I eat fish fresh, fresh, fresh and fresh. And I have tried fresh sardines in restaurants and still mildly scared I am. But you are making me want to give them another try. I just dont like the oiliness of anything fishy tasting lingering in my mouth. Are these different?ReplyCancel

  • kimberley - Thanks, ladies!

    @Lynda: perhaps a less hot desert? :)

    @Nicole: such a good question! And a toughie. If you’ve tried them fresh in restaurants, then you’ve probably had them in their best state? There is an oiliness to them, but I think it’s much less pronounced when they’re fresh. A quandary!ReplyCancel

  • Joanne - I definitely took a second glance at these because they look so much BIGGER than regular old tinned sardines! In a good way. I love that gremolata you’ve spread them with…I’m sure they’re delicious!

    I’m glad you had a good trip to Nevada! The most desert I’ve ever been to is Phoenix in spring…it was ideal.ReplyCancel

  • Kasey - I’ve never been to Death Valley, but your description sounds mesmerizing. Also, these sardines sound like the perfect thing to cook up on one of these hot San Francisco days we’ve been having. Lovely photo, as always!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie @ okie dokie artichokie - A girl after my own heart! You know I love sardines…and yes, even the shameful tinned variety. :-p I saw some fresh sardines at Whole Foods this past weekend and was amazed at just how large and different they were from the canned kind. Need to gut these soon! :-)ReplyCancel

  • sumika - this looks absolutely amazing… I love sardines… and I love it when it’s cooked this way! Thank you~ReplyCancel

  • bob - Seeing these brought back memories of many years ago and the wonderful sardine sandwiches my Mom made. I love canned sardines mixed in salads and try to enjoy one a week. I’ll have to graduate to “real” sardines and try Kimberley’s recipe. Your photo is fantastic as always!ReplyCancel

  • Strictly Foodie - I adore canned sardines, and while I LOVE fresh sardines, they’ve always been prepared FOR me. Where do you get yours? This recipe is wonderful.ReplyCancel

  • CSA Week 1 (June 12*) - […] Roasted Sardines with Green Garlic Gremolata from The Year In Food […]ReplyCancel

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