Don’t you go making that face at me. You know the one. I like to call it the “anchovy wrinkle”. That exact face people make before they tell you that they don’t like anchovies. It could be a wee lift of the lip, a mini furrow of the brow, or a full blown nose-crinkle that tells you before they even make a sound that you’re about to hear all about how much anchovies suck. I’m telling you: anchovy-hatin’ gives you wrinkles.
Sigh. These poor little misunderstood fishies. Usually, the vehement anchovy hater will regale me with sordid food tales of piscatory pizza bombs, Caesar dressing that tastes like a rock pool or overly pumped pasta sauce experiences, with the kind of horror reserved for overly detailed descriptions of that time they got food poisoning on the Jersey shore.
Now, while it is true that an overzealous use of these little flat fillets can be a sock in the mouth, flavor wise, it’s not actually because they’re as “fishy” as the naysayers claim. Anchovies can definitely be considered straight up pungent on their own, but it’s not got so much to do with their oceanic origins as it has with the fact that they are (naturally) packed with glutamates and ribonucleotides. As soon as I typed “glutamate”, your brain probably went straight to monosodium glutamate, or MSG, and then diverted straight to, “ewwww, gross!”.
But I’m not talking about that lab produced food additive made famous by Chinese buffets around the world here. I’m talking about the natural glutamic acid (try saying that five times fast!) found most often in traditional fermented foods that create umami, that hard-to-define savory taste that is often called “the fifth taste”. The thing is that – love ’em or hate ’em – anchovies are full of that good glutamate giving action and ribonucleotides, which means they boost the flavors around them. Translation: adding a few fillets to a recipe helps to amplify the savoriness of a dish and bring a depth of flavor that isn’t so much fishy as it is a little elusive, even while it’s the building block of what we can taste.
Which brings me to this anchovy dressing. Whizzing these little guys up in a mini food processor along with olive oil, lemon juice, fresh herbs and a smidge of ground ginger makes an easy punchy dressing that adds plenty of flavor without overshadowing whatever you’re dressing. (Side note: I love my mini food processor for whipping up dressings, dips and small amounts of sauces. It makes everything super quick and simple, plus it’s easy to clean and means I get to avoid whisking or mixing things forever because my arms are noodles. Winning.)
I like to use this anchovy dressing to jazz up hardier, crunchy raw vegetable salads like the Shaved Brussels Salad with Avocado and Kumquats, pictured above. In salads like this, you can marinate or dress the vegetables ahead of time or even overnight in the anchovy dressing and they won’t lose their crunch. Try using this anchovy dressing in your favorite coleslaw recipe instead of your usual dressing and you’ll see what I mean. I love this stuff as a dip or drizzle over jicama sticks, daikon or radishes, too.
Of course, you can dress lighter greens with this anchovy dressing, but you’ll want to eat those salads right away or they’ll wilt. Try using it over your favorite greens, along with finely sliced red onion and orange segments. It’s also weirdly good paired with avocado, drizzled as a garnish over vegetable soups, or as a sauce over sautéed scallops or salmon! You can see a similar dressing featured as part of this Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Leek Puree recipe from my cookbook Nourish below. (Snag the recipe for free over at Glamour here!)
If you’d like to see more AIP friendly recipes that use anchovy fillets or other canned seafood, check out my “everything but the tuna” guide here.
- EMULSIFY: The easiest way by far to whip up this dressing is to throw all the ingredients into a mini food processor, if you have one. Then all you need to do is process everything together until all the ingredients have emulsified together nicely. You can make this by hand, but if you do, I'd suggest you finely mince the anchovies, then add them to a small mixing bowl with the olive oil and mash them with a fork until you have a paste, before whisking in the remaining ingredients.
- USE: This makes a great dressing for a bunch of salads. If you're using this to dress hardier vegetables like in my Shaved Brussels Salad with Avocado & Kumquats, you can use this to marinate in overnight. If you're dressing lighter vegetables or salad greens, you'll want to toss this with your salad just before serving to avoid the leaves wilting. I also like to use this as a punchy, herby finishing drizzle on vegetable based soups for an extra zip of flavor.
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