Chicago, IL

You're Probably Not an Anchovy Fan, But You Should Be

Sherry McGuinn

This tiny fish deserves more love than it gets.

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Do you like salty, tangy, umami flavors? The kind of tantalizing, tongue-teasing burst of deliciousness that comes from biting into an anchovy.Yes. Anchovies are my jam.

In the Chicago suburb where my husband and I have lived for the past twenty years, anchovies are apparently vilified. When it comes to dining out, these little fishies are MIA. I’m not sure if that speaks to a lack of culinary sophistication here or the fact that anchovies aren’t what one would call, “a feast for the eyes,” In fact, I vividly remember a comedian saying that “an anchovy reminds me of an eyebrow.”

Yeah, but eyebrows are a thing these days, no?

Have I piqued your curiosity? Want to know more about anchovies? Read on:

One of the world’s most popular fishes, (see?) anchovies are found in temperate waters, in the Atlantic from Norway to South Africa, as well as in the Mediterranean sea. Anchovies have even migrated as far as the Red Sea, making them industrious little buggers, indeed.

Anchovies are beloved in Spanish tapas, or “little plates.” A typical little plate: “Boquerones,” a very simple dish consisting of uncooked anchovy fillets marinated in salt and vinegar and seasoned with garlic and parsley. Bring it on!

Considered to be one of the most frugal fish in the world, anchovies are budget-friendly due to their size, the ease with which it is fished, and their comparatively low price.

Fishermen prefer to nab their anchovies by the light of a full moon. Their silvery bodies shine in the water under the moonlight! Adds a certain air of romance, wouldn’t you agree?

The traditional method of processing and preserving anchovies is to gut and salt them in brine, allow them to “season” (like us more mature folk), and then pack them in oil or salt.

If you’re purchasing fresh anchovies, as opposed to canned, make sure to look at their eyes. They should be bright and protruding, with a black iris (not red).

In spite of their sodium content, anchovies are good for us, in that they’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids, delivering as many grams as salmon, and nearly twice as much as halibut. Hey, Dr. Axe says so and he’s never wrong!

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Anchovies also support strong bones and are a great source of protein. Plus, they’re low in calories, and high in vitamins and minerals, making them an ideal addition to a weight loss plan. What’s more, anchovies are low in mercury, a type of heavy metal that is absorbed by fish. There’s been a lot of talk about “mercury poisoning,” but you’re good to go with these diminutive babies.

Finally, anchovies are highly sustainable. They’re caught in the wild, so you can enjoy them without worrying about the potential health dangers of farmed fish.

Suddenly, I’m craving a Greek salad. A real Greek salad, with big chunks of imported Feta cheese and anchovies. Without the anchovies, it’s not Greek to me.

If you’re not an anchovy eater, or never had the motivation to try them, here’s a recipe from The New York Times that may turn you into an anchovy aficionado.

Midnight Pasta With Garlic, Anchovy, Capers, and Red Pepper

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound spaghetti
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 anchovy filets, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, optional
  • Parmesan for grating, optional

Preparation:

  1. Put the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water and cook only until firmly al dente. (Depending on the brand of pasta, this will be 8 to 10 minutes, but check frequently to see. )
  2. While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, without letting it brown. Stir in the anchovies, capers and red pepper and cook for a half-minute more, then turn off the heat.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour in the garlic mixture, add the parsley, if using, and toss well to coat. Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.

If you haven’t given the delicious and nutritious anchovy a shot, I urge you to do so. They can enhance a myriad of recipes with their salty, tangy, goodness. Canned or fresh, they won’t disappoint.

Bon Appetit!

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My goal is to educate, entertain, make you laugh, and above all, make you think. I will be running the gamut as far as my articles go because I have a restless mind and I allow it to ramble where and when it wants. I hope you enjoy what I'm looking forward to sharing with you. If so, I'd love for you to follow me. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL
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