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May 14, 2009

Anchovy paste (Recipe: Caesar salad with shrimp)

Updated from the archives, with new photos, links, and a quick version of a classic recipe.

Caesar salad

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

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.

Whether you're making braised cauliflower with garlic and anchovies, turkey cutlets in anchovy butter sauce, basic tomato sauce or gluten-free baked eggplant parmesan, anchovy paste is a wonderful convenience food -- with none of the eeewwwwww of those little fishes.

Caesar salad

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.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Caesar dip
Spicy peanut sauce
Sicilian style spaghetti

Comments

Count me among those who love what anchovy adds to a meal and I long ago discovered the ease of the tube. I also keep a tube of tomato paste and one of black olives in the refrigerator for whenever you need 'just a squeeze'.

Even though that won't make me go out and buy anchovies, I think it's a great idea! Hehe.

Looks good...I can totally get with this!

I love anchovy taste but have never cooked with real anchovies even once. I did buy two little cans of anchovies, which have been sitting in my pantry for at least two years now.

The salad looks great. Your photo really captures the deliciousness of shrimp!

I am bound and determined to overcome my anchovy phobia because, yes, I love worcestershire sauce and I know they are in there!
This tube mught be just the ticket!! because I don't think I will ever be able to eat the actual little fish!

Love this salad!
Always have enjoyed canned sardines, husband loves herring.
I like anchovy for flavoring but never wanted so much of it around, the tube makes it great to keep on hand.

I don't think I have ever had anchovies (never had real Caesar salad since it always has dairy), but this paste may be worth a try. Thanks!

I usually have anchovies in the house to cook some of my favorite pasta recipes. I never use the whole can for one recipe, but have found that if I freeze it in a ziploc bag I can usually use up the whole can in a month or two!

Using anchovy paste sounds like an ideal solution. Are anchovies the only ingredients?

This is the dressing I have made numerous times. It is beyond beyond beyond awesome. The only problem is the anchovies....you buy a can, use what you need and basically toss the rest because the leftovers dont last long. I wonder if the paste will work....I will HAVE TO try it out
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/magazine/09Food-t-001.html?ref=magazine&pagewanted=print

Love the tubes (tomato paste in a tube is also really handy)!

Great blog -- glad I stumbled upon it!

Lydia,
It's crazy how many years my cooking limped along without anchovies. I still don't use them often, but now I would no more run out of anchovies that I'd run out of oregano - and for the same reason. Both are essential flavorings.

I'll have to pick up some of this. I like a little anchovy in my Caesar dressing but like you mentioned the rest of the can sits in the back of the fridge. Thanks for the great idea and recipe.

Wow, I didn't realize the paste would last that long! I'll have to buy a tube, I want to try a pasta recipe that I have filed away. If I remember right it has anchovies and raisins.

That looks and sounds delicious! When it comes to anchovies I am definitely a nose-wrinkler-upper, but I think I may have to try the tube. Is it a umami kind of taste, do you think?

While I was still in high school I had some bad ones on a pizza and wasn't able to stomach anchovies after. But, I've now gotten used to those ubiquitous South East Asian fish sauce/pastes and think it might be a good alternative as they keep forever (depending of course on how often you use the stuff)and, like Worcestershire Sauce, doesn't need to be refrigerated - it's fermented.

Joan, add to your collection a tube of harissa. I'm completely addicted to pastes in tubes. So convenient!

Ben, if I told you that just a tiny bit of anchovy paste in a tomato sauce makes the sauce indescribably wonderful, would you reconsider?

Darius, definitely give it a try.

Kalyn, thanks. As you know I keep trying to improve my photos so the food looks as good as it tastes. And honestly, I can't remember the last time I bought anchovies. The tube is so easy.

Carol, I'm with you. Do try this!

MyKitchen, I definitely do not like cooking with anchovies (though I do eat sardines).

Alisa, this is one of the pantry items that I reach for when I need to add "something" to a dish but I'm not sure what it needs.

Melanie, I didn't know you could freeze anchovies. Thanks for that tip. The anchovy paste also has salt and sugar, though not much of either.

Milton, the recipe looks great, and I can't think of why the paste would not work here.

Jennifer, I'm glad you found your way here!

Kevin, I feel the same way. I actually came across the anchovy paste in an Italian market; I wasn't looking for it, but it cried out to come home with me. And I've been using it ever since.

Brian, the number of science experiments that end up in the back of my fridge is frightening. Fortunately, anchovies are no longer among them!

Janel, near as I can tell the paste seems to last forever. But don't quote me on that.

Judy, I think it is a umami thing; there is a definitely richness to anchovies.

Claudia, if you can eat shrimp paste (which I can, but not often), you can definitely get past the barriers to anchovies. Try the paste -- it doesn't look like fish!

I adore anchoiveies right out the can even, i love them! And the paste is great too, less of a fishy flavor for some. This sounds delicious.

At a seafood restaurant, the server asked whether we wanted anchovy on our salads. One gal said, just put them all on Jenna's" because I love all fish & seafood (except sea urchin). However, for a starter salad, even I couldn't enjoy 8 filets of anchovy!

Personally, I like to keep salted anchovy in my pantry. The handling is more involved (petrified bones are SHARP), but the flavor is outstanding!

I have a couple jars of anchovies relaxing in the pantry and I always forget about using them until it is to late. Grrr....

I will have to look for the paste because squeezable joy is so much better.

Noble Pig, you have a stronger constitution than I do! Anchovies are so misunderstood in our cooking. What they really contribute more than anything is salt, and the paste definitely adds that flavor.

Jenna, that does sound awful -- the taste of that many anchovies would kill my taste buds for the rest of the meal. I've seen tins of salted anchovies (and salted capers); they do look delicious.

Jeff, same here. But I have a whole bunch of tubes of things in my fridge (tomato paste, olive paste, harissa) and with the anchovy paste right there, I don't forget about it. (and who doesn't love a bit of squeezable joy???)

I'm with you on the squeezable tube phenom -- anchovy paste, tomato paste and harissa are also mainstays. I love the packaging of the harissa (en tube!). We use anchovy paste as a base in all kinds of things. It always adds that perfect and surprisingly subtle umami note.

I'm so glad to see a recap of anchovy paste---wish more enthusiastic cooks would buck up and try it.

Anchovy paste was one of the first (gourmet? unique?) unusual food products I ever experimented with (unusual in the rural area I lived in at that time), but I fondly remember the flavor it added. It's been a regular in my pantry ever since!

P.S. Are the shrimp you've used in your last few shrimp photos fresh or frozen and thawed? They look so divine---not quite the same as the average shrimp we get here in the Midwest :( Just one more reason to move to the coast, as if ocean living wasn't reason enough! :)

I didn't used to like anchovies, and still don't in their original form, but with cooking with anchovies, I'm totally there. The salad looks perfect for Spring!

Sean, our fridges must look the same inside! Tomato paste was the thing that got me hooked on tube foods; now there's no going back. (And no waste, either.)

Sandie, the shrimp (like almost all shrimp in my part of the world) are previously frozen. When I visited New Orleans, I ate shrimp at least twice a day, just for the pleasure of true fresh shrimp. Now, lobster... well, that we've got. But no shrimp.

Cate, same here, I couldn't get past the texture to the taste with real anchovies. None of that problem with the paste.

One of the best parts about the post is now knowing the ratio of paste to actual fillets. How many times have I opened a can, used to fillets, and ended up tossing the rest? This is great to have around, because otherwise, it's always a special trip for anchovies ...

Just a note--buy a quality brand of anchovy paste. The last tube I bought was yucky.
Thanks for the gluten free recipe! I'll have to try it.

TW, same here, and I hate throwing out little bits of things that have gone bad. Makes me feel like a bad pantry person.

Rachel, great advice, though I'm not entirely sure how to know which ones are good and which ones aren't. Perhaps price is one way to tell the difference?

The first time I ever encountered anchovy paste was 30 years ago when I found a recipe for anchovy bread and there wasn't a single tin of anchovies to be found, well, for non-Italians anyway. Anchovy paste is substituted for the garlic in garlic bread, or even in combination with it; makes a nice change.

I just got over my fear of anchovies. I love a fresh caesar salad with anchovies in the dressing. It really adds so much flavor. I've never tried the paste though. Thanks for a great post!

A tube of anchovy paste...that I have and use! I have some leftover shrimp today...calls for a salad.

Neil, you are way ahead of the curve -- I just found anchovy paste a couple of years ago. Great idea to use it for garlic bread.

Joy, the paste is perfect for people who have a bit of hesitation about eating the fish. Do try it if you find it.

Peter, I love having the tube in the fridge for "emergency" shrimp salads!

Lydia, I recently made your Caesar dressing. It was amazing!!! Thanks for sharing the tip about the anchovy paste.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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