Author Notes: This simple version of the Venetian classic (sarde en saor) balances the assertive taste of sardines with a sweet-&-sour marinade flavored with saffron and onions. In summer, I like to just throw the sardines on the grill.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/4 cup thinly sliced onions
- 3/4 cups balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons raw sugar
- 2 tablespoons raisins, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- large pinch saffron
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 8 fresh sardines, cleaned, gutted & scaled
- all-purpose flour
- olive oil, for frying
- lemon wedges
- Heat the oil in a sautee pan and cook the onions until they are soft and pale gold. Remove from heat and transfer to a large shallow bowl or pan.
- Combine vinegar, sugar, raisins and bay leaf in a small saucepan and crumble in saffron. Heat over low flame, stirring until sugar is dissolved, reducing slightly. Pour over onions. Stir in pine nuts.
- Wash and pat sardines dry, then salt and dust with flour. Heat a generous amount of oil in a large skillet and, when hot but not smoking, fry sardines until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Don’t crowd pan; fry in batches if necessary.
- Place the fried sardines into the marinade and spoon it over so they are well covered. The sardines can be eaten now, with lemon squeezed over, alongside a simple fennel salad and grilled white polenta. Or they can marinate in the refrigerator for a day or two and be served as part of a larger antipasti platter.
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