The Parmesan-almond croutons are addictive as a snack, but refrain from eating them until they are on top of this delectable salad. The flavor reward is worth the wait.
Grilled Sardines with Bitter Greens and Parmesan-Almond Croutons
- Kosher salt
- 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 2 cups warm water
- 6 cups cold water
- 4 3-1/2-oz. sardines, cleaned and gutted
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, preferably Meyer, halved
- 8 whole radicchio leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil, more for the grill
- 2 tsp. finely chopped shallots
- 2 Tbs. Champagne vinegar
- 1-1/2 tsp. honey
- 1/2 medium head escarole or 2 heads frisée (about 10 oz.) cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 grapefruit, zested and cut into segments
- In a medium bowl combine 2 Tbs. salt with the granulated sugar and warm water. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add the cold water and sardines to the brine, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the cheese, almonds, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a small bowl. Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, spread into an even layer, and bake until golden brown and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly in the pan on a wire rack. When cool to the touch, break apart.
- Meanwhile, heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Brush the lemon halves and radicchio leaves with oil. Season the leaves with salt and pepper. Grill the lemon halves cut side down until charred, 6 to 7 minutes. Grill the leaves until wilted and lightly charred, about 1 minute on each side. When cool to the touch, coarsely chop the radicchio.
- To make the dressing, when the lemon is cool to the touch, juice it into a medium bowl. Add the shallots, the Champagne vinegar, and the honey. Slowly pour the 1/4 cup oil into the bowl while whisking to emulsify. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Reserve.
- Remove the sardines from the brine, rinse, and pat dry. Brush both sides of the sardines with oil and season with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Grill until both sides are charred and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes total. Remove from the grill and tent with foil. When the sardines are cool to the touch, remove the skin and break the fish apart.
- In a large bowl combine the radicchio, escarole or frisée, tarragon, parsley, and grapefruit zest and toss with enough dressing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter, top with the grapefruit segments, sardines, Parmesan-almond croutons and the remaining crumbs from the baking sheet and serve.