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Sweet-and-Sour Sardines

Sardines in a sweet-and-sour marinade with raisins and pine nuts is a classic antipasto in Venice, where it is known as sarde in saor. Other fish can be prepared this way, especially dark-fleshed varieties, such as bluefish or mackerel. The flavors come together as the fish marinates, so plan to begin marinating the sardines at least a day before serving. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb. fresh sardines  
  • 6 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced 
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar 
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts 
  • 2 Tbs. golden raisins  
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Directions:

Using a sharp knife, make a slit on the underside of each sardine from the head to the tail, and use your finger to push out the viscera. Gently press the body open, grasp the spine near the tail end and carefully pull the bone free from the fish. Rinse the fish under cold running water, pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a large, heavy fry pan over medium-low heat, warm 4 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until very tender but not browned, about 20 minutes. If the onions begin to brown, add a little water to the pan and lower the heat slightly.

Add the wine, vinegar, pine nuts and raisins to the onions, bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In another large fry pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, add the sardines in a single layer and cook, turning once, until opaque in the center when tested with a knife, about 2 minutes on each side.

Arrange the sardines on a serving platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon the onion mixture evenly over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).