Grilled Mediterranean Sardines, Chickpeas, Calabrian Chile, and Pickled Red Onion

Adapted by
March 2014
Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Pickled Red Onion
1 large red onion, peeled
2 cups white vinegar
¼ cup water
1½ ounces kosher salt
1 ounce sugar
20 black peppercorns
3 sprigs thyme
15 fennel seeds
1 stick cinammon
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
1 bulb fennel, diced large
1 Spanish onion, diced large
3 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato vinegar
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
ground white pepper
To Assemble and Serve
18 Mediterranean sardine fillets
ground white pepper
1 large red pepper, roasted, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 Calabrian chile (fresh or preserved in olive oil), seeds removed, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
celery leaves
small parsley leaves
gray sea salt


For the Pickled Red Onion:
Thinly slice red onion lengthwise. In a saucepan, combine remaining ingredients and simmer 10 minutes; let cool. Pour pickling liquid over onions, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 day.  

For the Chickpeas:

In a saucepan, combine chickpeas, fennel, onion, garlic, and bay and add enough salted water to cover. Simmer until chickpeas are tender. Let cool in cooking liquid; drain, reserving liquid. Toss ¾ cup chickpeas with oil, tomato vinegar, and smoked paprika; reserve. Transfer drained chickpea mixture to blender and purèe until smooth and thick. Adjust consistency with cooking liquid, if necessary. Season with salt and white pepper.  

To Assemble and Serve:
Prepare and heat grill. Season sardine fillets with salt and white pepper. Grill fillets briefly skin-side down until lightly marked. Spread a large spoonful of chickpea purèe on a serving plate. Top with 3 fillets. Toss whole chickpeas with roasted pepper, Calabrian chile, and pickled onion; spread over fillets. Drizzle with oil. Zest lemon over the dish. Finish with celery leaves, parsley, and sea salt.