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This is so easy to make that it’s hardly a recipe at all, but then again it’s such a crucial part of Sicilian seafood cookery that I could hardly leave it out. Salmoriglio is the fundamental condiment for grilled fish here, be it swordfish, tuna, sea bass, gilt-head bream …
With something so simple, the quality of your raw materials is what makes all the difference. Now, I’m obviously spoilt here, as you would expect. My olive oil is from a local estate, the lemons are from my own tree, and the sea salt is from Trapani on the other side of the island. The oregano, from the nearby Nebrodi mountains, I dried myself. What we have here is the Aston Martin of the salmoriglio world, but don’t let that put you off. Get some (preferably single-estate) Sicilian olive oil if you can, some untreated lemons, Maldon sea salt and the freshest oregano you can find, and the end result will be good enough to fool the locals.The big question here is “stripped-down or spruced up?”. As always, no two people seem to agree. My mother-in-law always includes the garlic and parsley. I personally find raw garlic overpowering, even in small quantities, especially when you’ve got some fresh-tasting fish to show off to its best. I might include the parsley if I feel like living close to the edge. But most of the time I follow the puritan route, quite simply because it brings the best out of the fish, and that is surely the whole point. The proportions I give are what happen to work for me on most days, but much depends on the ripeness and sweetness/sourness of your lemons. So start with these amounts and add more lemon if necessary. I also use slightly more oregano than I have specified here. I happen to like it, but if yours is particularly pungent you may like to start with the quantities suggested and add more to taste.
As for the fish, I happened to have sea bass, but as said, this works with practically any grilled fish. They took 15 minutes in the pan, but could equally well have been baked at 180°C for about 20 minutes. Amounts to accompany fish for 4:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as good as you can get hold of
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 heaped tablespoon of fresh oregano, or ½ tablespoon dried
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ clove finely chopped garlic (optional)
- 1 heaped tablespoon of finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Whisk all the ingredients together well with a fork, while your fish is cooking. When the fish is ready, dress with the sauce and serve.