It's time to toss away all your preconceived notions about anchovies and give them a second chance. The anchovy in your Caesar salad or on top of a pizza..packed in oil and salt...is not the same thing as a fresh anchovy. A fresh anchovy is a tiny, delicately flavored oily white fish. And there's more. It's just about the healthiest and most sustainable fish you can eat, given their rapid reproductive cycle and nutritional content. Journalist Michael Pollan (author of numerous books on healthy, sustainable eating) features anchovies in Rule 35 - "Don't Overlook the Oily Little Fishes" in his book Food Rules, An Eater's Manual.
Anchovies are roughly three inches long and there are about six distinct species found worldwide in temperate, salty bodies of water...neither too cold nor too hot: Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
You will usually find them cleaned and filleted but they're very easy to clean on your own: remove the head, easily run your thumb along the belly of the fish, lift out the bones, remove the tail and rinse. Anchovies are delicious raw and are a staple in antipasto offerings in Italian restaurants ("cooked" with vinegar, lemon juice or another acid and flavored with herbs). I often toss fresh anchovies into a basic tomato sauce for pasta and the result is delightful; toss them in once the sauce is done and in a matter of minutes they're cooked through.
Even the jarred, salty anchovy can be positively delightful. Here, they're served as an appetiser on buttered, dark bread slices. With a glass of cool, crisp, dry white wine they're divine!
Anchovies are so tasty and nutritious that they occasionally deserve center stage which is why I think you'll love this main course anchovy dish. Here's the recipe:
Baked Fresh Anchovies with Capers & Parmesan Cheese
Delicious served with a tossed green salad!
Fresh Anchovies, cleaned & deboned, about 24
Capers packed in salt, rinsed, 30 grams (1 ounce)
Fresh bread crumbs, 20 grams (¾ ounce)
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, 20 grams (¾ ounce)
Garlic clove, peeled, 1 small
Olive oil, 30 - 45 milliliters (2 - 3 tablespoons)
Salt & freshly grated black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
Combine the capers, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and garlic clove in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
Place the ingredients in a bowl large enough to accommodate the anchovies and drizzle in the olive oil, stirring it in well with a fork.
Use your fingers to add the anchovies to the mixture, making sure they are well coated.
Line the anchovies on a baking sheet. I like to line the baking sheet with oven paper but this is optional.
Bake the anchovies until golden, about 10 - 15 minutes.