Q: Since my retirement I've started teaching in a master's program at various military bases around the world so I go overseas frequently, especially to Belgium, Germany, and Italy. On the two occasions I was in Naples, I had a marvelous antipasto of tiny fish marinated in oil and vinegar. I'm wondering where I can get them here, are they available in a canned or frozen form, and is there another fish I could substitute?
Lynne: You were eating fresh anchovies. Once when I was researching a story I asked the Sardinian owners of a restaurant in Milan if I might work in their kitchen to observe how they prepared their food. One of my tasks was to make what you have just described. Here's how you do it. Removed the heads from pristinely fresh anchovies, make a tiny slit in the stomach, open the fish up a bit, then ran your thumb nail up the stomach to clean it. Then simply lift out the back bone with the tip of a knife and rinse the fish.
Sprinkle them with a bit of salt and pepper and vinegar or lemon juice and refrigerated them for 2 or 3 hours. Remove them from the refrigerator, pat them dry, and sprinkle them with really good olive oil. Then you can add chile, garlic, oregano – any or all of these. There are companies, like Balducci's in New York City, that might supply them by mail order, but they have to be kept cold and you don't want to keep them more than a couple of days. I don't like some of the commercial ones I've bought because they've used lousy vinegar and oil. You might be able to get the fish fresh yourself, but know that tiny fish like these go bad very quickly. The way to tell if an anchovy is really fresh is that it's silvery - if it's blue or dark it's not as fresh.