The ironic thing about vacations are that one yearns to escape the everyday routine and replace it with a vacation routine. I want change, I want to escape computers, telephones, work-life and replace it with sea, sun, beach, family, friends and food.
When on vacation at my parents’ home in Halkidiki, the new routine is like this; wake up, have some breakfast, enjoy a coffee in the shade (it’s hot really early there), perhaps visit a neighbor or go shopping in town.
When it comes to 11am, it’s beach time. Every day, twice a day I walk down to the beach (in the time it takes to smoke 1 cigarette). One swim in the morning, head back home for lunch, take in the afternoon siesta and then head back to the beach for an afternoon swim and back home by early evening.
I’ll walk down to town, Nea Kallikratia and have a stroll, pick-up some nuts and pass the time by (passa tempo). I might grab a gyro or if meeting friends later, hold off as the evening feast at a “psarotaverna” is always welcome.
I might kill some time at the “Freedom Bar” in town. By day, this bar caters to those who rent chairs on the beach, want the convenience of a bar with drinks and snacks nearby and tunes pumping away.
By night, this bar is converted into a very “chill” type of bar. You’ll hear some mellow music, order a drink and follow the fishing boats with their trail of lights lining the sea.
This bar is located right on the beach. The only thing separating you from the sand are some boardwalks. The bar sets up these lights that float in the water, right in front of the bar. The scenery gets me every time.
All this beach talk has got me hungry! It’s time to showcase sardines again. Sardines are loved and enjoyed in all the countries that hug the Mediterranean. The smaller sardines are tastier and they can be pickled, fried, baked or grilled (my favourite).
Again, fresh sardines are much superior to their cousins who get canned and sit on the shelves of your supermarket. Loaded with Omega 3 fats (like salmon but without the mercury) and still affordable….the sardine is the everyman’s fish in Greece.
Today, I’m going to show you a method and a recipe that you’ll surely want to try. We’re grilling sardines but this time the heads are removed and then we gently push open the body from underneath to spread the two fillets out like a butterfly and then pull-out the spine.
What you have left is a butter-flied sardine fillet that can again be pickled, fried, baked or grilled. We’re going to grill these sardines, dress them with a simple and delicious “latholemono” (oil-lemon) sauce and garnish with some neat grape-vine leaves that are quickly fried into chips which could pass off as crispy, briny seaweed!
Grilled Sardine FilletsÂ With Chips
1 kg. of fresh sardines
Parsley and Oregano Latholemono Sauce
1 cup olive oil
squirt of mustard
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. of shredded carrot
4 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (1/2 if dried)
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. black pepper
24 jarred/preserved grape-vine leaves
oil for frying
- Using the back (dull side of your knife), gently scrape the sardines to remove the scales. Now cut the heads off and discard. Make a slit into each belly and cut all the way down to the tail and pull the guts out.
- Rinse the sardines well then on a cutting board, place the fish on the board (horizontally with the belly against the board) and gently push down along the spine until you’ve flattened the fish. Now turnover and gently pull out the spine. Repeat this step until all your sardines have been butterflied and boned. Rinse the sardines once again and allow to drain and pat-dry. Reserve in a bowl.
- Pre-heat your gas-grill. Brush off any residue and just before grilling the sardines, wipe the grill surface with some kitchen towel that’s been treated with oil.
- Make your sauce but adding the olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, grated carrot, garlic, chopped parsley and oregano. Whisk to incorporate and pour half the sauce into the bowl with the sardines and gently toss to coat.
- Pair one fillet with another like your forming a fish sandwich (this way with the two fillets united, they will stand up to the heat of the grill and not dry out or fall apart). You want your grill to have a medium-high heat. Grilled your sardines for about 2-3 minutes per side. (You may all broil them in your oven for about 3-4 minutes per side).
- Transfer to a platter (or divide among the plates and drizzle with remaining sauce, some chopped fresh parsley and garnishes of lemon slices and some diced tomatoes.
- Quickly take your grape vine leaves out of the jar and pat dry. Heat a frying pan with about 1/2 inch of oil and when hot, fry off your grape vine leaves in batches. Fry in batches until crisp (they fry in about 20 seconds) and blot on some plate lined with paper towel. Divide and place a stack of grape vine leaf chips on to each plate.
- Serve with Tsipouro (anise-flavoured eau de vie) or the Ktima Pavlidis Thema White. This white wine has a blend of Assyrtiko and Sauvignon Blanc grapes – excellent with fish and seafood.
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Â© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis
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