David opened my eyes that summer in Italy.
“We’re here to eat anchovies,” he told me over dinner. A trip across the Atlantic to eat anchovies? I thought. But, he was one of my favorite people and I trusted his food judgment. We had worked together at River Café for years before he moved to Canmore to open his own restaurant. I was excited to see him but more than a little confused about his trip. He and his girlfriend were traveling the Italian Riviera in search of the small silvery fish that until then, I had thought came only in tins—oily and hairy.
“Fresh anchovies?” I didn’t want to sound ignorant but I was intrigued.
David’s eyes glazed over. He tilted his head back. His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed. “Mmm, they’re so tasty.” I thought I could see drool forming on the side of his mouth.
He signaled for the waiter. “Uno piatto di acciughe, per favore.”
The first indication that I was wrong about the slippery little guys came when the waiter returned with the plate. Instead of brown and mushy, these were white and opaque. They swam in a river of bright yellow olive oil. Large flakes of sea salt dusted the top.
Not one to shy away from a new experience, I picked up my fork. I was shocked. This was no salty pizza topping. It wasn’t fishy or overpowering. It was mild and soft: the flesh buttery. The small fillet melted in my mouth releasing hints of lemon and garlic.
I, too, tilted my head back and groaned. “These are good.”
From that day forward, I marinate fresh anchovies every chance I get; here in Mediterranean waters, that has turned out to be almost every week.
Marinated Fresh Anchovies
½ pound of fresh anchovies
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
handful of parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic sliced
1/3 cup Spanish olive oil
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
Use a sharp knife to remove the head of the anchovy. Run the knife down its backbone and gently lift the top fillet from the bones. Gently separate the backbone from the bottom fillet.
Place anchovy fillets in a shallow dish, skin side up and pour wine vinegar over them. Marinate for 10 minutes; pat dry with paper towel. Arrange on platter, skin side up. Squeeze lemon juice over them and garnish with parsley, garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt over the top.
Serve with crusty bread and red wine