Monday, February 22, 2010

Extra acciughe...

If I had access to a time machine and could go back twenty years, I'm sure that 11 year-old me would have a lot of questions for grown up Scott. "You live where?!?" or "how'd you get to be so awesome???" He might want to know if girls will eventually start talking to me and I could tell him that the answer is, "Yes!"

I could also warn lil' Scott about the future - which girls would be nothing but trouble, where not to hide beer in and around the house (answer: the bushes, the fridge in the basement) and how to plan for a career in a normal 9-5 establishment (ok, I still have no idea about that last one...).

Eventually, I'm sure I would bring up food. At 11, I wasn't really that interested - I knew that I hated pesto, if only because my father had several hectares (look it up Americans, it's like an acre) of basil growing in the backyard. My brother, who became a vegetarian when he was 7, insisted on eating nothing but pasta with pesto, pretty much up until he came to visit me here in Balestrate, when we fixed him with a tasty panino con prosciutto cotto at 5am in the morning, after several Morettis.

I would probably tell mini-Scott about all of the great food here in Sicily - the arancini, the vastedde, the fruit, the vegetables - I could go on and on. I'm sure that I would mention one thing that would come as a shock to my pint-sized self: I love anchovies. If you had told me 20 years ago that I would eat anchovies on a near-daily basis, I would not have believed you. To me, anchovies were something gross - salty and slimy. Maybe if you wanted a secret rendevous with Kirstie Alley, you'd order them on your pizza (random reference, I know), but otherwise, if an anchovy was walking towards me, I'd cross the street and walk on the other side. No thanks, not interested.

Today, however, I use anchovies in all kinds of ways. Just today, anchovies were incorporated into my lunch and my dinner. For lunch, I made pasta con i broccoli arriminati, literally pasta stirred up with cauliflower (here in Sicily, cauliflower and broccoli are synonymous, at least from what I understand; if you were in Puglia, cauliflower would be cavolfiore and broccoli would be plain ole' broccoli). I made this dish over the weekend and liked it so much that I wanted to make it again. It is a classic Sicilian meal - cauliflower, saffron, pine nuts, onion, currants, anchovies and toasted breadcrumbs are pretty much the only ingredients. There are many different variations; I used the link above, but you could also try Mary Taylor Simeti's book Pomp and Sustenance. The first time I made it, I melted some anchovies over direct heat in a tablespoon of olive oil. Simeti includes a note, which I ignored the first time, suggesting to steam the anchovies in oil instead of using direct heat, because the anchovies could turn bitter. I adjusted by including this step today and it did make a noticeable difference in the anchovy flavor of the dish - less harsh, definitely more sweet, with a pleasant suggestion of fishiness. In the end, the anchovies were mixed in with all of the other ingredients for one of the most complex and tasty lunches I've ever made for myself.

For dinner, I minced more anchovies and sundried tomatoes and I stuffed and steamed a couple of artichokes again. I seriously love this dish. I served it alongside a simple sandwich of prosciutto cotto, lettuce, mustard and good crusty bread from the #1 bakery in Balestrate.

Sorry, past me, but anchovies are pretty damned tasty. You've got another 15 years or so of anchovy freedom, but soon you'll be singing the praises of these slimy little suckers, just like Huey Lewis sang the praises of going "Back in Time."

No comments:

Post a Comment