Grilling Sardines with a Backup Plan

mostaccioli 2

Plate of Mostaccioli

Monday:          Mostaccioli (Pasta) with Anchovies, Chiles and Kale


Pot of Mostaccioli

Tuesday:          Casey Fund-Raiser at Hanna’s – Sushi, Gin and Politics

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Wednesday:    Grilled Sardines, Basque-Port Style – Roasted Salmon with Green Herbs – Green Salad


Caprese Salad with Figs, Tomatoes and Red Onions

Thursday:        Caprese Salad / Jeffrey’s Chicken / Green Salad

Friday:             Pirate Game – Extra Mile Foundation – Hot Dogs

Pirate Game

Bill, Beez, Mere and Hoddy

Saturday:         Pirate Game –  Hanna Suite Dinner – Hot Dogs


Julie and Sophie

Sunday:           Dinner at Julie’s – Greek Chicken, Gin and Moon Pies

Another remarkable week in a run of remarkable weeks.  There was a lot to enjoy:

  • We got to eat hot dogs two days in a row – with mustard, neon-green relish and onions.
  • On Sunday, Julie Stoecklein fed the entire Pink Putter-and-Spouse crowd after playing golf all afternoon. As I have mentioned before, she is seriously energetic.  Her candied bacon and Greek Chicken and Annie’s Moon Pies in anticipation of the eclipse were never in danger of becoming left-overs.
  • At the fund-raiser, Senator Casey told me that he only ever played basketball with President Obama during the election campaign of 2008, but that he doesn’t mind people thinking that they still play – in addition to the cool factor, he thinks it may be worth some votes. Like most of the politicians I have met, he seems more clever and charming in person than on television.

As to what we actually cooked – the pasta on Monday was great, and Jeffrey’s Chicken was spectacular, as always, but the highlight was the grilling of sardines.

Billy and I had been looking forward to this for some time.  But with everyone’s schedule, the rainy summer, and our iron-clad rule not to frighten guests with foodstuffs, the first opportunity to cook these beauties came last Wednesday.  Years ago, in Italy, I had fresh sardines, simply grilled with salt, pepper and rosemary.  I have wanted to recreate that simple dinner for over a decade.  Alas, there are no sardines swimming in the Allegheny, Monongahela or Ohio rivers.  But, wandering through Wholey’s Market in the Strip one day, a package of frozen sardines (in the cooler just behind you, if you’re facing the main fish counter) caught my eye.

Try to forget the canned sardines you have eaten or avoided eating all these years.  Whole sardines, flash frozen and not packed in oil, are an entirely different kettle of fish.  They cook quickly with just a rub of olive oil, a seasoning of salt and pepper and some rosemary sprigs thrown on the coals beneath them.  The ones we grilled last week were a delicious and savory reminder of the sea (the Tyrhennian Sea, that is, just off the Amalfi Coast).

Although we felt a bit prehistoric roasting fish over an open fire, we were sensitive enough to cook a separate salmon dish for Barbara (to whom sardines will always be that oily fish that comes in a can).  We like having her around and, not wanting her to vacate the premises during the sardine feast, roasted some salmon with herbs for her – another pretty good dish, which we’ll offer along with the sardine recipe below.  That way, if you have the courage to try the sardines, you can have a backup plan, too.

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Timing:                About 4 minutes to cook (after fish are thawed and grill is hot

Ingredients:                                          Serves 8–9 as app, 2-3 as meal

Package of frozen, whole sardines (8 or 9)
Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rosemary sprigs
Lemon Wedges

Thaw the fish as directed or for 10 minutes in flowing tap water

Pat dry (Scaling and gutting are optional – we did not)

Prepare a hot fire in your grill

Toss the fhish with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper


Oil the grill grates, throw a handful of rosemary sprigs on the coals and cook the sardines directly over the coals for may 2 minutes per side.

Plate and serve with lemon wedges  (Cut into fish just behind gills and slide knife down backbone to remove top filet – repeat on other side.)



Roasted Salmon with Green Herbs  (adapted from Ina Garten, how easy is that?)

Timing:                                         About 30 minutes

Ingredients:                                        Serves 4

1 1/2 lb skinless salmon fillet
1/3 cup minced scallions
1/3 cup minced dill
1/2 cup minced parsely
1/4 cup dry white wine
Lemon wedges for serving
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons of good olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat oven to 425 F

Season salmon with salt and pepper and place in a roasting dish

Whisk olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle evenly over salmon and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes

Stir scallions, dill and parsley together in a small bowl


Scatter herb mixture over fillet on both sides

Pour wine around fillet

Roast salmon for 10 – 12 minutes, then remove from oven, cover tightly with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

To serve, cut crosswise into pieces and serve hot with lemon wedges.  (We served with cucumber salad.)

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