Anchovies are one of those foods you either love or hate. These salty, briny little fish can meld seamlessly into a sauce and lend just a touch of “umami.” Or they can become a main ingredient.
Here in the realfoodtraveler.com kitchen, anchovies and their convenient cousin, anchovy paste, are secret ingredients, adding depth, complexity, and a bit of saltiness to everything from casseroles to soups and stews.
Our friends at American Roland Food Corporation www.rolandfood.com/ are makers of a variety of anchovy products, including flat fillets in olive oil, silverskin anchovies with garlic and parsley, rolled anchovies with capers, anchovies packed in salt, and anchovy paste. They recently sent our test kitchen a tin of their flat fillets in olive and this recipe for Caesar Salad from Big Night In by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle Books).
We tried Domenica’s Caesar Salad recipe and loved it. Instead of using egg, Dominica uses a bit of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise to bind the dressing and give it a silky mouth feel. Her recipe also calls for using whole anchovies and the ones from Roland were perfect – meaty with just the right saltiness and enough olive oil to make the dressing. When you purchase anchovies, treat yourself to quality ones like those from Roland. These little fish don’t cost a great deal, but they really add a lot to dishes and, as always, quality makes a big difference.
Also, anchovies are good for you. Health authorities are always urging us to include more fish in our diets, but people are often concerned about issues like overfishing and mercury contamination. Anchovies may be the perfect fish. They reproduce quickly and are considered resistant to overfishing and quite sustainable. Also, this fish, which contains plenty of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, is low on the food chain so collects less mercury than choices like tuna.
I love this dressing recipe so much that I now use it on all kinds of salads. To save a bit of time, I add the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce right into the dressing. I also use my stick blender to get a really silky, smooth texture. Then I simply top my salad with Parmesan cheese and dribble on a bit of dressing (it packs flavor so just a little is plenty). We think you’ll love it.
Makes six to eight servings
For the croutons
2 cups cubed Italian country bread (1/2 inch cubes)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 large garlic clove, pressed
4 anchovies or other imported Italian anchovy fillets in olive oil, coarsely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of oil from the anchovies (we used Roland brand of anchovies)
1 Tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise (not mayo-based salad dressing or sandwich spread)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad
2 large heads red romaine lettuce or 3 hearts of romaine, washed and torn into large pieces
Juice of 1 large lemon
1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
To make the croutons
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Spread bread crumbs on a large, rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well. Sprinkle on a little salt and a few grinds of pepper, toss again, and spread into a single layer.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and toast croutons, stirring them once at midpoint, for 15 minutes, or until evenly browned and crisp. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
To make the dressing
In medium bowl, stir together salt and garlic clove to form a paste. Add the anchovies and their oil, the mustard and mayonnaise and whisk together to combine. Slowly add olive oil, whisking all the while, until you have added it all and the mixture is thick and emulsified. (I use my stick blender for this step and it works great.)
To assemble salad
Place lettuce leave in a large bowl. Pour the olive oil dressing over the lettuce leave and toss well. Pour lemon juice over the leaves and toss again. Add the Worcestershire sauce, cheese, and a generous grinding of pepper and toss again. Transfer salad to large bowl or decorative serving bowl and top with croutons and serve immediately.
The croutons can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept at room temperature in a tight lidded container or zipper-lock plastic bag. Lettuce may be cleaned and kept in a large zipper-lock bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the salad. Don’t tear the leaves until just before assembling, to prevent browning of the edges. The dressing ingredients may be mixed together up to 2 hours in advance and kept tightly covered, at room temperature. Whisk before pouring over salad.