(May 2, 2014) When one pursues perfection, consider the examination of the “question” versus the “answer.” Perceiving a problem brings about the unknown which is the basis for achieving knowledge. Reasoning is subjective and redefines the attainment of success. Perseverance is the key ingredient that distinguishes one chef from another.
Genoa is the capital of the region of Liguria and is known for its historical contributions to the field of gastronomy. The traditional Mediterranean style of cooking is based on simple ingredients. These by themselves seem insignificant. However, when combined to accentuate each individual ingredient; the final result is a symphony of unsurpassed flavors.
Pesto, the pride of Genoa, is a thick sauce that pairs beautifully with pasta or fish and does not require cooking. The basic ingredients are olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, basil, and pine nuts. Convention is the root of the past, but innovation is the source for the future.
Deconstruction is the starting point for modernization. A new version of pesto is my mission. Finding a replacement for the basil and pine nuts and remaining true to the cuisine of northwest Italy is my purpose intended.
Genoa has been Italy’s major seaport, assembling more wealth even if Venice has gathered more glory. Anchovies flourish and are a staple along the Ligurian coast. It is very common to see six or more types of fresh anchovies proudly displayed in the public markets. In the Mediterranean, people shop for anchovies with the same scrutiny as Americans pick through the produce section.
Why do Americans have such a dismal attitude towards anchovies? The simple fact is that most Americans have never had the opportunity to taste anchovies in their natural state. The extremely salty version that comes in a tin can is not a fair representation of the family of engraulidae.
The excessive amounts of salt are used either to compensate for lack of flavor or to ensure long shelf life in marginal products. That being said, very good quality anchovies preserved in olive oil are available. The best will be basically free of dark spots (bruises) and bones (hand removed).
Agostino Recca (jar) of anchovies is delectable and can be purchased online. They are pricy, but worth the expense when entertaining for a special occasion.
A few fascinating facts about anchovies. The anchovy fishing period is from March to September. The best bait to lure them to the surface is crab paste.
One of the most popular Spanish tapas are Boquerón’s; uncooked anchovy fillets are marinated in salt and vinegar and seasoned with parsley and garlic.
If one is a movie buff and adore anchovies, continue on for intriguing trivia. The suicidal deaths of seagulls that inspired Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was caused by a toxin called domoic acid. According to an article, “Mystery Behind Hitchcock’s Bird’s Is Solved At Last,” scientists at Louisiana State University claim to have discovered why thousands of seagulls began killing themselves along the coast of California in the summer of 1961.
The researchers discovered unusual quantities of nerve damaging toxins that most likely came from anchovies and squid that was part of the birds’ natural diet. The high level of toxins can cause brain damage and even death. Confusion still reigns about what generated the toxins to be present in seawater in the first place. The usual culprit would be pesticides from farmland. But there was a house-building boom in the area at the time, and experts wonder if leaky domestic septic tanks were to blame.
The small, silver fish have been cherished around the world for thousands of years. Replacing the customary pine nuts with chopped almonds enhances the pesto with texture. Artichokes adds freshness and lightness to the pungent anchovies and garlic. Anchovy-artichoke pesto is delicious served on crusty bread or crackers. Anchovy-artichoke pesto is also a great addition to an antipasto platter. Enjoy!
2-ounce can of anchovies
2 cloves garlic
¾ cup diced (½-inch) multi-grain baguette (dried for two days)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
3 splashes fresh lemon juice
¼ cup whole, roasted almonds
12-ounce jar of marinated artichokes, drained
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 rounded teaspoon flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1. Place all of the contents in a food processor except for the artichokes and almonds. Puree until smooth. Add the artichokes and almonds, pulse until you get a rough chop. This gives the pesto texture.
2. Refrigerate for two hours.
3. Serve on crusty bread or crackers.
Yields – two cups
Secret Ingredient – Perseverance.
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein