Sardine Meze with Olive, Cucumber & Yogurt

Sardines

By Michael Psilakis

    Sardine Meze with Olive, Cucumber & Yogurt

    4 whole, very fresh sardines
    1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    1 teaspoon black peppercorns
    1 teaspoon fennel seeds
    1 fresh bay leaf
    1 sprig thyme
    Zest of 1 lemon
    1 cup dry white wine
    1 pint white wine vinegar
    ½ cup kosher salt
    ½ cup sugar
    Extra-virgin olive oil

    1. Remove the filets from the sardines and trim them to a nice, neat shape.

    2. Lightly toast the spices in a dry saucepan. Add the bay leaf, thyme, lemon zest and wine. Reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the vinegar, salt, and sugar.

    3. Place the sardine in a container and cover with the cold pickling liquid. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain off the pickling solution, and hold the sardines in olive oil until serving.

    Cucumber Plank:
    Half an English cucumber, peeled

    Cut four slices of cucumber 1/8-inch thick; trim to the same size as the sardines.

    Thassos Olive Oil:
    1 cup Dried Thassos Olives
    ¼ cup fresh Thassos olives, pitted
    1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    1. Place the dried olives in a blender and puree to a fine powder, scraping down the sides. Add the fresh olives bit by bit, pureeing after each addition, until the olive puree is a thick, loose paste. Slowly incorporate the olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the puree is only just pour-able.

    Assembly:

    The Thassos olive oil
    The pickled sardines
    Extra-virgin olive oil
    Small pinch of dry Greek oregano
    Sea salt and cracked black pepper
    The cucumber planks
    2 teaspoons Greek or sheep’s milk yogurt
    2 Thassos olives, slivered
    Tiny, picked sprigs of dill

    1. In each vessel, make a small pool of the Thassos olive oil. Paint each sardine with a little olive oil and season with a few grains of oregano, sea salt, and black pepper.

    2. Place a sardine on each cucumber plank and place on top of the olive paste. Make a small dot of yogurt and a dot of Thassos olive oil in the center of each sardine. Garnish with a sliver of Thassos olive and a tiny dill sprig.