Updated from the archives, with new photos, links, and a quick version of a classic recipe.
When a recipe calls for anchovies, do you wrinkle your nose, give a little shudder, and quickly skip to the next page in the cookbook?
Or, do you love anchovies, but always end up with half a can hiding in the back of the fridge, turning into another life form altogether by the time you remember it's there?
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to anchovy paste in a tube.
Anchovies are small silver fish, 5-8 inches long, native to the Mediterranean and popular in the cuisines of that region. A member of the herring family, anchovies are sold whole, packed in salt, or filleted and canned in olive oil. After the tin is opened, anchovy fillets, even when stored in an airtight container, won't last more than a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.
Anchovy paste is anchovy fillets that have been ground to a tomato-paste consistency, and blended with salt and a small bit of sugar. One half teaspoon of anchovy paste equals two anchovy fillets from a tin.
The paste is slightly saltier, so be sure to adjust the salt called for in your recipe. Once opened, the tube should be stored in the refrigerator, where it will happily sit for up to a year.
Anchovies' main contribution to cuisine is a robust saltiness and a somewhat elusive depth of flavor. Anchovy paste gives you all of that taste, but without the little bits of skin and bone, all edible and yet so fish-like, that come with anchovy fillets.
Anchovy paste is a wonderful convenience food -- with none of the eeewwwwww of those little fishes.
Caesar salad with shrimp
Okay, this isn't anything like the original salad invented by Caesar Cardini at his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1924. It's a cheater's version, made with ingredients in the pantry, and without the raw egg that makes this a no-no for some people. Serves 4 as a main dish salad.
1/4 cup mayonnaise (or the other spread)
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Pinch of fresh black pepper
Kosher salt to taste (I didn't use any)
3 hearts of romaine lettuce or 1 large head
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb large shrimp (21-25 size), peeled and deveined
2 slices wheat bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
In a small bowl, combine first six ingredients to make the dressing. Stir well, until smooth; taste, and add salt if needed. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.
Tear (don't cut with a knife) the lettuce into large bite-size pieces, and wash thoroughly. Dry with a spin dryer, or in an absorbent dish towel. Place lettuce in a large mixing bowl.
In a small nonstick frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Sauté the shrimp for 2-3 minutes, until they are pink and curled, but not overcooked. Remove from pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil, and sauté the bread cubes until lightly browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the chilled dressing to the lettuce, and toss well to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Top with the shrimp and toasted bread cubes.
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