Anchovies and sardines have a bad rap, but these recipes are so tasty that you won't turn your nose up to them anymore.
Think twice before telling the pizza man to hold the anchovies. Many turn up their nose at small, silvery canned fish like anchovies, mackerel and sardines — but they're actually some of the most environmentally friendly seafood species swimming in today's over-fished waters. They're also an excellent source of protein and high in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish per week.
Some adventurous eaters snack on sardines straight from the can, but the rest of us need a few tricks to bring out the best in them. Tangy ingredients like tomatoes, olives and vinegar are their ideal partners. They're also packed with umami, that intangible quality of savory richness. That means anchovies impart a pleasing nuttiness to pasta sauces and salad dressings, while a humble can of sardines is easily transformed into a sophisticated spread or crispy fritters.
Here are six ways to use these perfect pantry items in a pinch.
1. Whip up a salad dressing: Did you know that every time you eat a Caesar salad, you're likely eating anchovies, too? That's the ingredient behind the creamy dressing's addicting salty flavor. But you can also add these tiny fish to any regular vinaigrette recipe. For example, place four anchovies, two cloves of garlic, ground black pepper and some vinegar in a food processor and then pulse the mixture several times. Then, while the blade is spinning constantly, slowly pour in about a ¼ cup of olive oil in a thin stream until the mixture is emulsified.
2. Toss them in pasta sauce: The tiny fish are also the secret ingredient behind a potent puttanesca, a dish of spaghetti tossed in a tomato sauce flavored with tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers and garlic. Further south in Sicily, you'll find pasta con le sarde made with olive oil, onions, finely chopped sardines, fennel, saffron, pine nuts, raisins and breadcrumbs.
Take a hint from these classic Italian dishes and experiment with adding anchovies or sardines to olive oil or tomato-based sauces. Sauté chopped onions in olive oil for about ten minutes and then add some minced garlic. Next, mash three canned fish fillets into the onions until they disintegrate, and then add the tomatoes. Stir your choice of herbs or other ingredients like capers or olives into the sauce. Let the entire mixture simmer for at least 30 minutes so the flavors fully combine before serving over pasta.
3. Top a pizza: Anchovies as a pizza topping have developed a bad reputation, but it's time to grow-up and give it a chance. It's a classic for a reason. Preheat the oven to 500°F and then top pre-made pizza dough with a layer of tomato sauce, thinly sliced red onion, two cloves of chopped garlic, black olives and the contents of one can of drained anchovies. You won't even miss the cheese thanks to their satisfying salty flavor. Or, think outside the (pizza) box. Consider making a rustic pissaladiere, a sort of combination French-style pizza and tart, topped with caramelized onions, olives and anchovies.
4. Make a spread: Call this dish sardine rillettes (a fancy French spread typically made from pork or duck), and impress your party guests. In a food processor, combine two cans of drained sardines with cream cheese, plain yogurt, or even cottage cheese. Also add the juice of one lemon, one chopped shallot, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a generous pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and serve with toasted bread points or crackers.
5. Add them to caramelized onions: Salty anchovies are the perfect foil for intensely sweet caramelized onions. Coat the bottom of a pan with oil and place it over medium high heat. Then slice several large onions and place them in the pan. Ensure the onions are evenly coated with oil, and then stir only occasionally. After fifteen minutes, add four anchovy fillets and a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary or sage. Turn the heat down to low and stir about every five minutes until the onions are soft and have turned a deep brown color (about 45 minutes). Turn off the heat, and store the caramelized onions in a container and place in the refrigerator. This fragrant jam-like spread makes a delicious addition to pasta, pizza, or a sandwich.
6. Fry some fritters: Here's a sophisticated update to your grandmother's classic fish cake. Drain two cans of sardines and combine them in a bowl with an egg, one clove of chopped garlic and coarsely ground black pepper. Add some chopped herbs of your choice and about half a cup of breadcrumbs. Stir the mixture until it's thoroughly combined. Then, cook large spoonfuls of the dough in hot oil for about five minutes on each side.