Memories of the Cote d’Azur
Far niente on the Cote d'Azure

Memories of the Cote d’Azur

The daily view...
The daily view…

I apologize for silence these last several days.  I did something unusual; I took a vacation.

I had my computer with me, but it slept the way I did.  I did much more – swam for hours in the Mediterranean, absorbed just enough sun, sipped a few cocktails as the sun set, and took in the excitement and bling! bling! of Monte Carlo.  The Cote d’Azur is another world; I adopted it easily!

Now, I’m delighted to be home, and while I miss the sun and far niente, I’m so happy to be in my office overlooking my garden.  After having been away for nearly two months, it reminds me of what the word steadfast really means – despite a certain neglect (only the owner and the person who planted can REALLY pay attention to the fine points of a garden, I feel…!) the flowers are blooming, the grass is growing, the herbs are scenting the air, the fig tree is ripening fruit, and the pears and apples are larger than ever.

Far niente on the Cote d'Azure
Far niente on the Cote d’Azure

I returned from my mini-vacation absolutely inspired – to grill eggplant, stuff zucchini blossoms, make rose-water and pistachio-flavored ice cream (Roberto Francia, owner of Arlequin Gelati in Nice, offers this inspired combination), but more than anything, to grill sardines.

And so, that is what I did last evening.  Sardines are a perfect fish, and none is easier to prepare. I built a fire in the barbecue and when the coals were hot, I set the grill over it so it would be blistering when I laid out the firm, silvery fish. As the heat cooked their firm, fatty meat – protected by skin and scales – it also cleaned them so that by the time they are cooked –about 4 minutes on each side – they are not only succulent and tender, but ready to put on the plate.

Sometimes I put fresh sage on the fire to smoke the sardines; this time, I did nothing but season them with salt and pepper.  They were perfect, enjoyed under the Norman night sky.  No, the Mediterranean wasn’t lapping at our feet, but we enjoyed this taste of the sun and the sea nonetheless!


On the grill
On the grill



This is so simple it’s hardly a recipe.  There are a million things you could add – sardines can take strong flavors, so you might make a garlic and pepper-rich vinaigrette, or strew them with minced parsley, lemon zest and garlic, or even serve them with a red pepper chutney.  But sometimes, simple is best.

I suggest serving a summer cabbage salad dressed with apple cider vinegar and garnished with flat-leaf parsley alongside these sardines. That is what I did, and there wasn’t a bit left of either!


1 pound (500g) fresh sardines, rinsed and chilled

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, cut lengthwise into 8 pieces

Fresh sage, for garnish


1.  Build a medium fire in the barbecue. When the coals are red and dusted with ash, set the grill over them to heat

2.  When the grill is hot, set the sardines on the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn them and cook until the meat is translucent through, an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

3.  Transfer the sardines to a platter. Squeeze several pieces of lemon over them, then season generously with salt and pepper. Garnish the platter with the remaining lemon, and the sage, and serve immediately.




This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Ann Meads

    Happy to hear you had a trip to the cote d”azur
    We vacation there a few years ago and loved the are too
    We also visited Normandy this May A nice contrast
    Welcome Home

  2. Cathy Bennett

    Fabulous for you ! Sounds le a perfect time. XOXO

    1. Susan

      Arlequin is amazing. You’ll love it. Mr. Francia is an artist!!


  3. James Navé

    I remember the time you showed John van Hasselt how to cook perfect sardines. All he had was a pan and a burner. Wonder what would have happened if he’d had a grill? Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Susan


      That was a great time, wasn’t it?
      And those sardines were darn good too!


  4. Eileen

    Susan – You aways amaze! Followed your blog through Bosnia and while I was weary at first, (Bosnia seems like a winter recipe kind of place) you have come up with summer recipes that are extraordinary! Betsy Regnell and I are presently tackling your tarte tatin from our class in Louviers, which was a masterpiece! Feel a bit like Julie in the movie “Julie and Julia” when she tackles de-boning a duck. WIll let youi know how it goes. Many thanks for the ongoing guidance Susan!


    1. Susan


      Bosnia – a winter recipe kind of place! Such a good way to put it,and thank you for the compliment! I’m about to begin testing some Bosnian recipes, and will hope to make them sing, no matter the season! As for Tarte Tatin, persist. it’s a bit early in the apple season here yet, though the Golden Delicious, with all its faults, usually works year-round. So, get into the kitchen again and let me know the results, with photos please!


  5. Joe Fajerman

    We started going to Nice in the 20th century and loved it so much, we keep going back. We discovered Fenocchios ice creamery right away and its one of the attractions that keep us coming back. We tried other gelateria, but none was as good. When we went two years ago, we had no idea that arlequin existed, we will definitely look for it next time.

    1. Susan

      Arlequin is amazing. You’ll love it. Mr. Francia is an artist!!


    2. Susan


      Be sure to look up Arlequin. Mr. Francia is an artist – you’ll want to set up a camp bed outside the store, though, so you can keep tasting what he offers…!


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