A while back I came across one of the many food & travel docs-series on Netflix. It just so happened to be Ainsley Eats the Streets. I had never known of him before or seen his shows in Britain. After devouring the entire series he quickly became one of my most favorite television chefs. He exudes joy and it shows both in his television programs and in his cooking.
One of the episodes in the series was his visit to Sicily. During the show he prepared a fairly easy recipe of sardines stuffed with a variety of ingredients. I did a little research on the recipe and it’s fairly straightforward and easy to compose. I am not entirely positive there is a single traditional recipe for these sardines so I took the basic elements of what I could find online and on the show.
Here’s how I did it:
Before you do anything you need to find fresh local sardines. Obviously you probably won’t find them as fresh as in Sicily but local farmers markets should suffice. Fresh ingredients is the key here!
For an appetizer suitable for 2-4 people:
1.5lbs – 2 lbs of fresh sardines (Ask you fish monger or farmers market to scale them – It will save you a lot of extra work at home.)
Start off by cleaning your sardines, removing the head and innards along with the small back bone that runs thru the entire length of the small fish. An easy way to do this is make a small cut underneath the tip of the backbone and use your fingers to pull it out.
You will notice sardines have a lot of small little bones that run alongside the backbone as well. It’s up to you if you want to spend the time to remove each one but most are small enough that they will dissolve in the cooking process by itself.
Once your sardines are cleaned, half them with a sharp knife and set aside. I like to run them under cold water again after I cut them in half.
In a non-stick pan you want to lightly toast 1/2 cup of pine nuts along with a 1.5 cup of bread crumbs (preferably seasoned). Add in 1/2 cup of raisins along with another 1/2 cup of finely chopped parsley. Mix together until warm.
In a large bowl add 1.5 cups of EVOO and the juice of 1 lemon. Slowly add your dry ingredients, mixing slowly to incorporate well.
Take roughly 1 spoonful of the mixture and stuff each sardine. Carefully roll each one up securing it with a toothpick placing it carefully in an oiled glass dish. I’ve found small square glass dishes work the best. Once your dish is full drizzle some EVOO on top and add in a few springs of fresh rosemary and bay leaves. (No salt – remember the sardines have enough saltiness to them already naturally.)
Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Remove and let cool for 10 minutes. (Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks!)
You can add a dash of balsamic vinegar for that extra little kick to this lovely little delight from the sea.