From 50 Foods: The Essentials of Good Taste by Edward Behr
A cured anchovy represents the very essence of a big taste—strong if you use a lot of anchovies (and why not?)—a timeless flavoring used by rich and poor, by those living near the water and those far inland. The taste is freshest and best when the anchovy is taken straight from the salt and cleaned just before use. The flesh is red, not brown like that of an anchovy from a can. The salt and complicated, emphatic flavor make anchovies highly useful. The combinations are as simple as an anchovy mashed into garlic-rubbed, olive oil–coated toast or chopped anchovies in a tomato or beet salad. Cured anchovies often boost flavor in the same way as a piece of dry-cured ham, fermented soy, or Southeast Asian fermented fish paste or sauce (the last two being based on anchovies). And just a few minutes’ cooking over low heat reduces a cured anchovy to a paste and the flavor to something so subtle that in a sauce, such as for braised beef, it can hardly be identified. It’s an umami underlining.
The narrow fish with their silver sides and green or blue-green backs, which quickly turn gray out of the water, are also delicious when just caught. Full of oil and quick to turn, they’re cooked on the day they’re caught, often within hours. The taste is rich but delicate. The fresh fish are so cheap and plentiful that they don’t often appear in cookbooks. Around the Mediterranean, they’re cooked in simple ways, such as dusted with flour, deep-fried, and served with salt and a sprinkling of vinegar or lemon juice.
COMPLEMENTS TO ANCHOVIES: The best complements to a cured anchovy may be olive oil, garlic, parsley, and black pepper (which come together in anchoïade for toast), then lemon juice, orange juice, vinegar, capers, fresh tomato salad with hard-cooked eggs, beets (in vinaigrette), broccoli and cauliflower, eggplant (baked, with chopped garlic and basil and alternating slices of tomato). Top complements to fresh anchovies, as to the cured, are olive oil, garlic, parsley, black pepper, lemon juice. The opening to a Spanish meal frequently sets the salt of cured anchovies against sweet, cooked red bell pepper. Among red meats, for one example, cured anchovies go with cooked garlic in a sauce for roast lamb made from the juices in the pan. Anchovies are mashed with olives and capers in tapenade (olive paste). They’re key to Green Goddess dressing—anchovies, garlic, capers, parsley, chives, tarragon, lemon juice, all in a medium of mashed avocado.