Grilled Sardines Served With Agrodolce

Grilled Sardines Served With Agrodolce

The long awaited transition from winter to spring has finally come. As we treasure the beauty of spring, we embrace this time of rejuvenation, renewal and new beginnings. This week’s nutrition for fertility recipe is a refreshing grilled sardine dish. In Chinese medicine, sardines are considered a yin food, which is cooling and moves energy down and in, producing grounding and calming effects.  

Sardines are a particularly valuable food for fertility, as they are a seafood which can be consumed whole. As a plentiful source of healthy essential omega-3 fats such as DHA and EPA, as well as, vitamin D and vitamin B12, sardines also improve kidney energy, making them a wonderful fertility enhancing food for both men and women. Kidney energy deficiency can be one of the main causes of infertility, as kidney yin is the fundamental substance for birth, growth and reproduction. It is important to abundantly nourish this energy system.

Ramps (wild leeks) have long since been known as a tonic in Chinese medicine because they were one of the first plants to emerge in the spring and provided the necessary vitamins and minerals following long winter months without any fresh vegetables. Ramps help to waken the digestive system, which is wonderful as the springtime allows us to be outside more and soak up the natural sunlight. 

Yields: Serves 4-6 dependent on size of sardines

List of Ingredients

  • 12 fresh sardines, scaled and gutted (your fishmonger will do this)
  • 10 ounces rhubarb
  • 6 ounces small ramps or scallions
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 5 tablespoons raw organic honey
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Dice the rhubarb into ¼-inch cubes and put into a bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons honey and toss well. Set aside, allowing flavors to mesh while you prepare the ramps.
  • Trim the roots off the ramps, being careful not to remove the bulb.  Cut the bulb and several inches of stem from the greens. Wash the greens and set aside for grilling. Peel the outer layer away from the bulbs and then wash well.
  • Combine the remaining honey (2 tablespoons), ginger, pepper flakes, anise seeds, orange zest, bay leaf, thyme, vinegar and water in a pot.  Bring to a boil and then simmer 2 minutes.  Season with salt.  
  • Add the ramp bulbs and simmer until tender, about 4 minutes. Then add the rhubarb and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Scoop the ramps and rhubarb out of the liquid and transfer to the bowl.  
  • Return the pot to the heat and continue simmering until the liquid changes to a syrupy consistency. Pour over the ramps and rhubarb, stir once or twice and set aside to cool.
  • Preheat a grill.
  • Rinse the sardines inside and out with cold water then pat dry.
  • Season sardines with sea salt and pepper. Brush both sides with some olive oil.
  • Just before cooking the sardines, toss the ramp greens with a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then throw on the grill and cook until they begin to char and puff, turn once. Arrange in a single layer on a platter.
  • Cook the sardines on the hottest part of the grill for 1½-2 minutes.  Flip and cook on the second side 1½-2 minutes. Transfer to the platter and arrange over the ramp greens. Drizzle with the last tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Serve with the ramp and rhubarb agrodolce.

How to Filet the fish: 

Run a knife down the backbone to lift off the top fillet (if they’re cooked, you should be able to do this with a butter knife).  Carefully raise the tail; the spine and rib bones should come away from the bottom fillet. You may want to remove any residual thin bones, but they are soft and edible.

Recipe adapted from The Garum Factory