Grilled Sardines with Preserved Lemon Gremolata

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Grilled Sardines w Preserved Lemon GremolataI’m excited to share another recipe with you from The Nourished Kitchen cookbook by Jenny McGruther! This is one of the recipes in her beautiful book that really leaped out at me and made me instantly hungry. I love just about all seafood, and in particular when it is blended with bright Mediterranean flavors. So this is really my perfect summer dish!

And you get two-for-one here, as it also includes Jenny’s technique for making preserved lemons. Preserved lemons were my very first fermented food to try making (besides yogurt) and I really, really love the flavor. This is a ferment that is just incredibly easy to make, so if you have been intimidated by home fermentation, you should take the plunge with preserved lemons. Enjoy!

NKTN grilled sardines with preserved lemon gremolata image p 127Grilled Sardines with Preserved Lemon Gremolata

A fresh sardine bears little resemblance to its oily, overly fishy tinned cousin; rather, it tastes of the sea—briny, but clean. I first tasted a fresh sardine while volunteering in Morocco when I was in my early twenties. Our little camp of idealistic volunteers ate what could be had from local markets—mostly chicken, lamb, potatoes, vegetables, herbs, olive oil, and fresh fish caught just offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. We sliced the sardines open and cleaned them. Then we packed them with garlic and fresh herbs before grilling them over an open flame. Ten years later, I still prefer sardines prepared in this way, as the clean flavor of fresh herbs complements the fish’s briny oiliness. I like to serve them with a little chopped preserved lemon, garlic, and parsley. Serves 4 t o 6


21/2 pounds cleaned sardines, with heads and tails left on

2 teaspoons finely ground unrefined sea salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


2 preserved lemons (see recipe below) seeded and finely chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to high.

Rinse each sardine, inside and out, and pat it dry.

In a small bowl, stir together the salt, paprika, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and olive oil. Stuff the mixture into the sardines, dividing it evenly, then truss each fish with 100 percent cotton cooking twine.

Oil the grill grate and grill the sardines until the fish is cooked through and the flesh flakes easily when pierced by a fork, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the sardines to a serving plate.

To make the gremolata, in a small bowl, stir together the preserved lemons, parsley, and garlic. Serve the gremolata alongside the grilled sardines.

How To Make the Preserved Lemons

Fermentation tempers the distinct sourness of lemons and infuses them with a pleasant saltiness. As the lemons ferment, the rinds soften and become edible. Meyer lemons, with their thin rind, are particularly well suited to fermentation. Makes about 2 quarts

5 pounds Meyer lemons

Finely ground unrefined sea salt

Slice the nubs off the ends of each lemon, then slice the lemon lengthwise as if to quarter it, but leave one end intact. Let the lemon open in the palm of your hand like a flower and sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon of salt into its center. Place the lemon in a 2-quart jar or fermentation crock, then continue slicing and salting more lemons until you’ve placed enough in your crock to cover the bottom with a single layer.

Take a wooden spoon or masher and press the lemons down to pack them tightly, then continue slicing, salting, layering, and packing lemons until no more remain. Pack the lemons tightly once more, making sure that they are completely submerged in their brine, weighing them down with a glass weight or sterilized stone if necessary. Seal the crock, place it out of direct sunlight, and allow the lemons to ferment at room temperature for 8 weeks.

After 8 weeks, open up the crock and taste a lemon. Properly preserved lemons taste salty and softly sour without the abrupt tartness of fresh lemons, with no residual bitterness in the rind. If the rind is still bitter, reseal the crock and continue fermenting them for another week or two before tasting them again. When fermented to your liking, transfer the lemons to the fridge. They’ll keep for 2 years.

Reprinted with permission from The Nourished Kitchen written and photographed by Jennifer McGruther (Ten Speed Press, © 2014).

If you haven’t seen Amelia’s video review of this book yet, you’ll definitely want to check it out!

McGr_Nourished Kitchen

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5 Responses to Grilled Sardines with Preserved Lemon Gremolata

  1. Hausfrau April 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Can’t wait to try this recipe over the summer, as I am finally making preserved lemons tomorrow, for the first time! Funny, this is the fifth preserved lemon recipe I have read today, and each one is somewhat different, especially regarding the amount of fermenting time and how long the lemons will keep. Some recipes recommend adding extra lemon juice and others don’t; some use Meyer lemons and others don’t. I imagine I’ll kind of combine the recipes for yet another take on preserved lemons!

  2. Haydn Wyndham-Grane August 31, 2019 at 4:47 pm #

    Very good, interesting.


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