I spent a lot of time in my paternal grandmother’s kitchen watching her cook. She was British, so the meat was usually overcooked and the vegetables cooked to death, but for her time and generation, she was an amazing cook. Tender sweet pies, home canned chili sauce, homemade bread & cakes, Welsh cookies, sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies and homemade ice cream are just some of the wonderful foods I remember from her kitchen. She had a huge garden with all types of vegetables and several fruit trees, raspberry bushes she turned into pints and pints of raspberry jam. My mother claimed she sent me to my grandmother’s house because she was afraid she was going to just up and kill me one day, but I think she was prone to exaggeration. There was no way I was that bad of a kid…
I ate everything and anything my grandmother made, along with whatever my mother and maternal grandmother made from their German kitchens. I was the opposite of a picky eater as a child. I never met a food I didn’t like until anchovies came into my life. I remember it distinctly. Nearly every Tuesday night, we went as a family to a little Italian pizza joint for dinner. One night we had some friends with us and they ordered anchovies on their pizza. I remember asking them what anchovies were and being horrified at the answer. Who would want to eat little, canned fish on their pizza, or anywhere else for that matter!
For years I would say I liked all foods except anchovies. It became kind of a catch phrase (I was a food geek from way back).
Then, one enchanted evening when I was in my twenties, while eating out, probably for an anniversary or something, I ordered a Caesar Salad. The heavens opened up, light shone from above, and I had a culinary moment of euphoria. I believed I had found theâ€¦bestâ€¦saladâ€¦ever.
I had to try it at home! The next issue of Gourmet Magazine (my Bible at the time) had an article on Caesar Salads and I ran from the mailbox back into the house, made a cup of coffee and sat down to devour it. I glanced at the ingredient list and froze. Anchovies? Hello? Really? I tried making the salad without the anchovies and it was good, but not the heaven opening culinary epiphany I had at the restaurant.
On my next trip to the market, I wore dark glasses and skulked in the tuna fish aisle, praying I wouldn’t meet anyone I knew. I was such an outspoken critic of the little critters, that it would be hard to explain why I was buying some. Even the cans looked disgusting. Then I saw a tube of anchovy paste. That might be a good compromise. I took it home and tried the salad again. Better, but not spectacular.
Finally, I swallowed my pride and with much sighing and moaning, bought a can of sardines. I tentatively opened the can, sniffed inside and nearly gagged. I muscled through and made the salad and it was absolutely wonderful. In true obsessive compulsive fashion, I started searching out recipes that used anchovies and made them all. I’ve had thousands of Caesar Salads since then. Now I buy salt packed anchovies from specialty shops. I had to move away from my little town because of the shame, but it was worth being able to openly buy and eat those little savory salty suckers!
I still love a good Caesar Salad. Here’s the version I am currently making:
2 cups cubed sourdough bread
3 T plus 1/2 cup of EVOO
3 cloves of garlic (wow!)
6 anchovie filets
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
2 t red wine vinegar
2 heads of hearts of romaine lettuce
First, cube the bread
Then put the cubes on a baking sheet, sprinkle them with 3 T of olive oil and 1/2 t each of Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Put them in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown
After they cool, rub one side of them with an unpeeled clove of garlic
Then peel the garlic cloves and smash in the bottom of a large salad bowl with 1/2 t Kosher salt
Smash 4 anchovie filets into the salt/garlic mixture.. Isn’t this fun?
Chop the lettuce into large pieces and dump it on top of the dressing
Toss the lettuce with the dressing, break the egg into the bowl and toss again (if you aren’t absolutely sure that your eggs are salmonella free, skip this part!)
Right before serving, add the croutons and parmesan and toss lightly.
This post is in honor of the letter “D” and part of Jenny Matlock’s Alphabet Thursday. For more beautiful “D” posts, please click here http://jennymatlock.blogspot.com/