I think that my world changed when I first tried marinated white anchovies. If you think they taste like their canned cousins, then think again. They're fresher, and less pungent, and they have a wonderfully soft texture. In Spain, they're known as boquerones, and they're extremely popular as part of a tapas spread.
Seeing as they're so pretty to look at–the little filets are silver and white–I wanted to feature them in a way that really showed them off. Today, I paired the anchovies with roasted red peppers, marinated in sugar and vinegar, and added a creamy line of homemade aioli alongside. (I make a lot of crostini–in the past two years I've posted on sardines, chard, and a puttanesca-inspired bruscetta–and so it seemed like a natural way to go.)
The best part about these is that they can and should be served at room temperature, and every element can be made at least a day ahead of time. Toast the bread slices and roast the peppers the day before, or use canned peppers if you'd like. The aioli will last up to a week in the fridge.
Crostini with marinated anchovies (boquerones), red pepper and aioli
a baguette, sliced very, very thin on the diagonal, about 15-20 slices
15-20 white anchovies
marinated red bell pepper slices (recipe follows)
aioli (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the bread slices very lightly with olive oil, and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until browned and crisp. Remove from the oven, and allow the slices to cool. Use immediately, or store in a plastic container for up to a day.
Fill a plastic bag (or a piping bag) with aioli and cut a tiny (1/8 inch) piece off the corner. Pipe the aioli onto the bread slices. Beside it, place an anchovy, and a slice of red bell pepper. Serve.
Marinated red bell pepper
red bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
On the grill, under the broiler, or directly on the burner of a gas stove, char the pepper all over until it's entirely blackened. Put it in a brown paper bag, and fold the top closed. Let the pepper steam at least 10 minutes before peeling.
Peel the bell pepper using the back of a knife (don't rinse the skin off, as you'll take the juices along with it) and slice it into 1/4 inch strips.
Place the pepper strips in a small bowl with the remaining ingredients and allow them to marinate for at least an hour.
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon mustard
small garlic clove, minced or grated
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola
Combine the egg yolk with the salt, mustard and garlic clove in a small bowl. Place the oils in a liquid measuring cup (or another container with a spout). Whisk together the egg mixture, and begin very, very slowly pouring the oils in, whisking constantly, allowing the mixture to emulsify. Season again with salt to taste, if necessary.
December 8, 2012
December 4, 2012
Last weekend, my mother told me that at the rate I was going, I'd never get married. She was kidding, I hope, but I’ll admit: the woman has a point. My love life is bleak. Step into my apartment on any given day and don’t be surprised to find a group of ladies snuggled up on the sofa–wine in hand–recounting stories of failed first dates and lamenting their singledom by collectively ordering take out. Lately, we’ve moved onto heated discussions centered on interior decorating.
But in the spirit of taking life as it comes, and keeping a sense of humor about it–albeit a self-deprecating one–today I invited one of my girlfriends over for dinner, specifically, for a bowl of steamed mussels, which are a natural aphrodisiac. (Oh, the irony!)
Shellfish, most notably, oysters, have long been considered to be foods of love. In ancient Rome, raw oysters were exceedingly popular, and were, according to the satirist, Juvenal, largely responsible for the wanton ways of drunken women. Centuries later, the wives' tales persisted, and Casanova himself reportedly made a habit of consuming five-dozen raw oysters each morning at breakfast to keep up his prowess.
As for where these rumors came from, much credit goes to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, desire and beauty, who rose from the sea foam and rode an enormous seashell to shore. Though I generally assume that she traveled on a scallop shell, as is depicted in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, the vessel is often referenced in literature as a cockleshell, and at times, a mussel shell. Mollusks, because of their suggestive shape, not to mention their slippery texture, have historically been associated with sexuality, particularly female sexuality.
In fact, during the Middle Ages, the old English word for mussel (“mossel”) also meant “vulva.” So prevalent were these superstitions that if you look closely at the 500-year-old triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, you’ll notice a naked man carrying away (or possibly stealing, by the look of it) an enormous mussel suspended on his back. Protruding from the shell, there is a half-visible naked woman–the bottom half, that is, in case you're curious–flanked by pearls, with her feet flailing behind her.
Tonight, for our aphrodisiac-themed dinner, my friend Eva and I will be steaming our mussels in a rich white wine broth finished with parsley and cream, and serving them alongside a crusty baguette, and a cheese plate. Surely, it won't be the most romantic evening of my life, but hell, at least I'm not ordering take out.
2lbs mussels, scrubbed and sorted
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup white wine
1 cup clam juice
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Clean and sort the mussels, scrubbing any debris from the surface and removing any mussels that are open and will not close when tapped.
Melt the butter over medium low heat in a saucepan with a lid. When the butter is melted, add the garlic and cook until softened, but not brown, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the fennel seeds, and white wine and clam juice. Season with black pepper (not salt, as the mussels are very salty, so leave salting to the end). Turn the heat to medium and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half.
Add in the mussels, cover the pan, and cook about 5 minutes until the mussels have opened. When they've opened, remove the pan from the heat and add the cream and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with crusty bread.