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Anchovies are like a martini. Either you love them or you can’t stand them! There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground when it comes to these salty, silvery saltwater fish.
Most of us are familiar with anchovy oil, which is full of nutrients and is often a key ingredient used in authentic Italian cooking, especially pasta and pizza. It is used as a foundation in many flavorful sauces, including Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing. Although anchovy oil is high in cholesterol and is loaded with sodium, it’s OK to use it in moderation.
Difference between anchovies and sardines
Although both are small, silvery saltwater fish related to the herring, most anchovies are canned or exported to be salted, smoked, pounded into paste or distilled for fish sauces. Canned anchovies are sold flat or rolled and can be very salty. You can reduce their saltiness by soaking them in cool water for about 30 minutes, and then patting them dry.
Sardines are mostly found canned in oil or sauce, salted or smoked. Larger sardines can also be eaten fresh, roasted in the oven or cooked on the grill, either whole or in fillets. They are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and are generally considered to be a brain food.
Using anchovy paste
Even though many of us may be turned off by the slimy, hairy texture of anchovies, their taste is a fine addition to any culinary preparation. Anchovy paste is generally available at most of our local markets in the canned fish aisle, and it is a great addition to dressings, meat rubs, pasta sauces, and in particularly, a Caesar salad.
Simple Caesar Salad
This recipe does not contain raw egg yolks, as does the classic version, for those concerned about the small risk of salmonella.
2 tsps. finely chopped garlic
2 inches of anchovy paste
Pinch of salt
Juice from freshly squeezed lemon
3 drops Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
6 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tbsps. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup croutons
1 head Romaine lettuce
Ground black pepper
In a large wooden salad bowl, blend garlic, anchovy paste and salt with a whisk. Add lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and continue whisking. Add mayonnaise and whisk for another minute until mixture becomes thick. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk the mixture vigorously. Add two tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.
Add the croutons to the dressing, as well as the washed, dried and cut Romaine leaves. Toss to blend dressing, croutons and Romaine leaves. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Makes 4 servings.
Roasted Pepper and Anchovy Crostini
Roasted red peppers and anchovies are spread over crostini, small thin slices of toast made from slices of French bread.
Roast a couple red peppers under the broiler; remove the seeds and stems. Chop it up and add to a blender or small food processor along with some anchovies and garlic. Add some fresh basil for color, and then finish with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Slice a long thin loaf of French bread, drizzle some olive oil on the slices and toast. Spoon the pepper mixture onto the toasted slices.
Penne with Anchovies, Tomatoes and Garlic
Reduce the portions and this flavorful pasta can also be used as a side dish with your favorite steak or chicken entrée.
1 jar anchovies, packed in olive oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cans (14.5 oz. size) diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
16 oz. penne pasta
Heat the oil over medium heat in a sauté pan large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. When it first starts to sizzle, add the anchovies and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook about 1 minute, or until anchovies fall apart. Add pepper to taste. Add tomatoes and simmer about 8 minutes, stirring, until tomatoes fall apart into the sauce. Add chopped parsley. Taste for salt
When the pasta is properly al dente, drain it; turn the heat on under the sauce, add the pasta to the sauce; stir well. Cover and steam-cook for one minute over medium heat. Stir again and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.
Garlic Anchovy Linguine with Fresh Vegetables
This is a light and flavorful linguine dish full of broccoli, mushrooms and tomatoes tossed with a mixture of anchovies, garlic and green onions.
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup broccoli florets, finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
4 oz. anchovy fillets, chopped
2/3 cup water
1-4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh parsley
1 (12 oz.) pkg. linguine
1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then stir in garlic, broccoli and mushrooms; cook until lightly browned. Add anchovies and water, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in green onions, tomatoes, and parsley; cover and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add linguine and cook until al dente, about 7-8 minutes; drain. Toss pasta with vegetable mixture and add crushed red pepper flakes. If desired, season with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Sea Bass with Anchovy Dressing
The sea bass can be cooked on the grill or stovetop, but grilling is the preferred method. The anchovy dressing adds a distinctive flavor and aroma.
4 (6 oz.) sea bass fillets
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
2 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsps. freshly chopped oregano
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat grill to medium-hot and line a grill pan with aluminum foil (or just use the foil on the grill).
In a small saucepan, heat the oil, and then add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped anchovies and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, allow to cool, and then stir in the vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper.
Place the fish fillets in the grill pan (or on foil) and brush each fillet with a teaspoon of the anchovy mixture. Cook for 4 minutes each side, brushing with more of the anchovy mixture during cooking. Serve immediately with any remaining anchovy dressing drizzled over the top. Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.