Mar 21, 2013

The little fish that packs a WALLOP!

Avocado-Tomato Salad
with Anchovies, Eggs, and Capers

Click on photo to view larger
I'm talking about ANCHOVIES, they have been a staple of the global diet for thousands of years. And not just any staple, but one so highly prized that it was used to make a condiment, garum, during the Roman Empire that cost as much as the finest perfumes.

Unfortunately, many Americans scoff at the idea of adding anchovies to their food because of its strong fishy flavor, but that is changing. In recent years anchovies have become more and more popular as street food, as health food and as umami-dense morsels of fine dining. Many chefs have fallen passionately in love with anchovies, which is a core reason you now come across them on so many menus across America. 

Anchovies have been used in recipes for a very long time. They are a principle ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, Caesar and Green Goddess salad dressings, and in a type of anchovy paste called "gentleman's relish" which has been popular in England since 1828. Anchovies are wonderful used in tomato and fish sauces, with vegetables, chicken, and lamb. Just check out the varied recipes listed below.

Anchovies are members of the herring family, and swim in warm waters all over the world. They average 1 to 4 inches in length. Anchovies can be bought fresh, but unfortunately are not available here on Moloka'i. I recently read a food blog "rachel eats" that talks about fresh anchovies in Italy, with a simple recipe for marinated anchovies, check it out. Many anchovy experts like the salt-packed anchovies, but you do have to clean them, which means filleting, cleaning out the innards, removing fins, heads, and tails, etc. The flavor, they say, is a dramatic improvement over oil-packed. Personally, good-quality oil-packed anchovy remain my favorite for everyday use.

Another use for anchovies is in fish sauce which has found its way into kitchens around the world. Romans had their coveted garum. The Indonesians have kecap ikan, which dates back to the 15th century. Koreans useaek jeot to make their national side dish, kimchi. The Filipinos have patis. The Vietnamese have nuac mom, and the Thais have nam pla, an essential ingredient in so many Thai dishes. They all usually contain anchovies.

Oil-Packed Anchovy Tips:
1. There are two reasons why we don't care for anchovies in America: We don't use the correct balance of anchovies in our dishes, and we don't use quality anchovies. Seek out the more expensive anchovies, often found in a jar, not a can, at specialty food stores or Italian or Spanish markets. You'll be surprised by the difference in flavor.

2. Unopened canned anchovies are fine on the shelf up to 1 year. Once opened, be sure they are covered in oil in a sealed container and refrigerate. Use within two months.
3. To remove some of the salt from anchovies, soak in cold water or milk for 1/2 to 1 hour. Drain and pat dry before using.
4. Anchovy oil can be used in salad dressings or sauces in lieu of whole anchovies. It will have a stronger flavor than if the anchovies were used and also be more salty.

Unfortunately anchovies are mostly used as bait for catching tuna here in Hawaii, but more and more chefs here in the Aloha State are joining the rest of the world creating new tropical uses for this "little fish that packs a WALLOP".

Anchovy Recipes:

Mozzarella in Carrozza
Traditionally Mozzarella in Carrozza is an Italian dish of deep-fried balls of mozzarella cheese and prosciutto wrapped in battered bread, however in this recipe, we substitute anchovies for the prosciutto and fry this Italian gooey cheese sandwich like French toast, except in olive oil. This is a very rich dish, and makes an excellent appetizer topped with a julienne of marinated Japanese cucumber. Sooo good!

8 slices white bread, cut into equal squares while removing the crust (I use white potato bread)
1-16 ounce mozzarella ball, sliced or grated
8 anchovy filets, mashed
1/2 clove of garlic, mashed
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more if needed
1/2 Japanese cucumber, cut into long thin strips (julienned) and marinated for 30 minutes in Mirin (Japanese sweet sake) with a pinch of salt.

On a cutting board, mash the anchovy filets and garlic together with the side of your knife creating a paste. Divide the anchovy/garlic paste into 4 equal amounts. Spread the paste onto 4 bread slices. Put the grated or sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the other 4 slices of bread. Top that with the 4 slices of bread with the anchovy paste for each carrozza. For the batter, beat eggs and milk together in a bowl. Dip carrozza sandwiches into batter and make sure they are fully coated. In a saucepan, heat extra virgin olive oil, on medium heat, and cook sandwiches until golden brown on each side. Cut each sandwich into 4 triangles and serve immediately. Note: Because this appetizer is so rich, I like to serve it with a julienne of marinated Japanese cucumber on top of each triangle. The julienned cucumber is marinated with a little sweet Japanese sake (mirin), with a pinch of salt. Makes 8 servings of two each.

Anchovies with Artichoke Hearts
This is a Spanish Tapas recipe that is easy to make and delicious.

8 anchovy fillets (use a good quality, olive oil packed anchovy)
4 marinated artichoke hearts, cut in half
8 strips of roasted red pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Wrap the anchovy fillet around a piece of marinated artichoke heart and roasted red pepper strip. Secure with a toothpick and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with slices of crusty bread. Makes 4 serving, 2 per serving.

Potato Salad with Anchovies Mayonnaise
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
sea salt
1 large celery stalk, diced small
2 scallions, chopped
2 large hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1 cup Spicy Anchovy Mayonnaise (recipe below)

In a medium pot, bring potatoes to a boil in salted water over high. Reduce to a rapid simmer and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 10 minutes. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and let cool, about 30 minutes. Stir in celery, scallions, eggs, and mayonnaise and season with salt. Makes 6 servings.

For the anchovy mayonnaise: Combine 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, and 8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped (about 1 can, drained).

Polenta Cakes with Anchovies
These little bite-sized savory polenta cakes will surprise you and your guests because they are so good, and easy to make as appetizers.

1 cup instant polenta
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper
7 anchovies, or to your taste
mozzarella cheese, grated
7 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
14 small basil leaves for garnish

Cook polenta as per package instructions. Stir in butter, grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Pour hot polenta into a lightly greased 8x8-inch square pan which has been lined with baking paper. Let cool completely in the refrigerator for 45 minutes. Cut 14 polenta rounds using a 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Top each polenta round with one half of an anchovy filet, half of a cherry tomato, and a little grated mozzarella cheese. Just before you are ready to serve the appetizers, pass them under a broiler until the cheese melts, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish each cake with a small basil leaf which you stick into the melted cheese. Makes 14 savory appetizers.

Grilled Shrimp with Green Goddess Dip
Before the advent of ranch dressing, green goddess was one of the most popular salad dressings on the West Coast of the U.S. It is believed that this recipe was conceived in San Francisco, at the Palace Hotel in 1923.

3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 green onions chopped (white and green parts)
1 cup of Italian flat-leaf parsley, or classically, a combination of parsley, chives, tarragon, basil and chervil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds medium shrimp with tails on
4 tablespoons butter, melted
pinch of cayenne pepper
fresh lime juice from 2 limes

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a blender and puree to make a smooth dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Toss the shrimp in a little melted butter mixed with a pinch of cayenne pepper. Grill the shrimp for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the shrimp and serve warm or at room temperature with green goddess dip. Makes 8 servings.

Avocado-Tomato Salad 
with Anchovies, Egg and Capers
2 ripe avocados, cut in half, pit removed
1 head of butter lettuce
4 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
4 hard-boiled egg, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 ounce can anchovies in olive oil
1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
lemon juice
sliced baguette, toasted

Place each avocado half on a bed of butter lettuce in the middle of a salad plate. Gently mix diced tomatoes with chopped hard-boiled eggs, salt and pepper, and capers. Fill each avocado with the mixture, then drape each with 3 anchovy fillets. Top with some chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves. Drizzle with a good quality extra virgin olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice. Serve with sliced toasted crusty bread or crackers. Makes 4 servings.

Tapenade Butter
Great served as a topping for grilled fish or lamb chops, or stirred into your favorite pasta.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives, or Nicoise olives
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons drained capers, finely chopped
salt and black pepper to taste

Mix everything together in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer tapenade butter to sheet of plastic wrap. Form tapenade butter into 1-inch-diameter log, wrapping plastic tightly around log. Chill tapenade butter until cold. DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Cut log crosswise into 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick slices and put a slice on top of cooked meat or pasta as a finishing touch of flavor. Makes 4 servings.

Swiss Chard That's Very Italian
2 large bunches of Swiss chard, washed
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovies, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Remove chard leaves from stems. Cut the stems into bit sized pieces. Add them to a large pot half filled with water, simmer over medium heat until they are tender. Meanwhile, roughly chop the leaves and add them to the pot with the stems. Continue cooking until the leaves wilt. Drain the chard in a colander. Return the pot to the stove and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, anchovies, and pine nuts and cook/stir until the garlic and pine nuts start to turn golden, but not burned, and the anchovies dissolve. Next add the drained chard and raisins. Toss to heat it through and the chard is coated with the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Anchovy Lovers Pasta
This is a delicious recipe for you anchovy lovers. It is a simplified spaghetti alla puttanesca, without the olives and capers, focusing more on the garlic and anchovies.

1 pound of pasta (traditionally served with spaghetti, although it goes well with penne, bucatini, linguine and vermicelli)
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
about 20 anchovies from 2-2 ounce cans anchovies in olive oil (use the oil for the sauce)
2 cups finely chopped fresh tomatoes, or 2-14.5 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2/3 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. While the pasta is cooking, saute the minced garlic in olive oil, plus the oil from the anchovy cans, in a large skillet. Cook the garlic for about 1 minute, being very careful not to burn it, then add about 20 anchovies. The anchovies will start to disintegrate quickly as you stir them into the oil and garlic. At this point, add the finely chopped tomatoes, oregano and freshly ground black pepper and a few tablespoons of pasta water, to give it a sauce-like consistency. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, then serve and garnish with parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Serve with hot crusty bread. Note: Anchovies and anchovy oil is very salty, so taste the sauce for salt. This will tell you how much sauce to put on top of the pasta. Makes 4-6 servings.

Penne Pasta with Kale and Anchovies
8 ounces penne pasta
6-8 anchovies packed in olive oil
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
4-5 leaves curly kale, chopped fine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package instructions, until al dente. Reserve about a 1/4 cup of pasta water for cooking at the end if you need more sauce. In a pan on medium-low heat, warm a tablespoon of olive oil. Add anchovy filets and cook until light sizzle for about 3-5 minutes. Raise heat then add tomatoes and cook down for about 10 minutes. Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir in kale and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Toss pasta in the pan with the sauce and mix well to combine. If it seems dry, just add some pasta water. Serve with parmesan cheese on top. Makes 2-4 servings.

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