After a week of recreating recipes from How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis, it occurred to me that I haven't had such consistently healthy meals in a long time. During normal weeks I'll go through at least a pound of butter, a dozen eggs, and more heavy cream than I care to admit.
My shopping list this week—tons of vegetables, a little bit of meat and fish, barely any dairy aside from some crumbled feta and a few spoonfuls of yogurt—was almost puritanical compared to my usual haul. Thinking back over a week's worth of healthy Greek-inspired meals, I didn't miss a thing.
This recipe for Grilled Sardines with Chopped Salad and Skordalia Soup is a prime example of how a seemingly humble combination of fish and vegetables can be turned into a thing of beauty with Psilakis' Aegean expertise.
If you have never grilled sardines, seriously, you have to try them. They have nothing to do with the oily, sometimes stinky variety that has turned so many people off of the lovely little fish. This particular preparation couldn't be easier since your fishmonger does most of the work for you. All that's left is for you to debone them (it takes about 30 seconds per fish), season, and grill them. The Skordalia is a Greek garlicky puree of potatoes and vinegar, which serves as the glue that brings this plate together.
Skordalia is at once starchy, creamy, and acidic and works as a perfect foil for the richness of the grilled sardines. Topping the dish with a little bit of chopped Greek Salad adds a raw crunch and a little more vinegary punch. Oh, and aside from tasting fantastic, this dish was an absolute knockout of a plate.
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- For the Skordalia:
- 1 Idaho potato, peeled and quartered
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- For the Grilled Sardines and Salad:
- 8 to 12 fresh sardines, scaled and gutted, heads off
- 1 tablespoon strained or Greek Yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 recipe Greek Salad
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Red Wine-Black Pepper Vinaigrette or 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Kosher salt and coarsely cracked black pepper
- Pinch dry Greek oregano
For the Skordalia, cook the potato in boiling salted water until very tender.
Meanwhile, in a small food processor, puree the garlic and vinegar until very smooth.
Put the potato through a ricer into a bowl and stir in the garlic-vinegar mixture. Stir in the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a generous grinding of pepper. The Skordalia should be the consistency of applesauce. Whisk the Skordalia with the yogurt and vinegar to a thick paste.
For the grilled sardines, open each sardine's central cavity, as you would a book. Using your thumb, push out any of the innards that may remain. Then work your thumb in between the rib cage and the flesh, starting at the tail end and working your way down toward the head to release the ribcage and spine. Repeat on the other side and remove the skeleton. With tweezers, pull out any pinbones that extend beyond the outside edges on either side. Leave the back fin in place. Dry the sardines well with paper towels and hold in the refrigerator on a rack, uncovered, until ready to grill.
Assemble and dress the little chopped Greek Salad (if using olive oil and lemon juice instead of the vinaigrette, be sure to season well). Place a nice big smear of the Skordalia-yogurt mixture on each of the 4 plates.
Preheat a charcoal or gas grill, or ridged cast-iron grill pan, until very, very hot. Season the sardines on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill with the skin side down for 30 to 40 seconds, then turn over for 1 second only, and transfer to warm plates on top of the Skordalia. Top each sardine with a sprinkle of Greek oregano and a little of the chopped salad.