So its Valentines night, I'm sitting in this high brow Italian Ristorante with Sue McGleno.
Who's kidding who....in the world of romance, is there anyplace sexier than an Italian joint?
I love the white linen table cloths, and if made properly...there is no better food on God's planet.
The only downside to dining Italian is they always seat you at those little cafe tables, and more often than not....they cram those suckers together.
As we sit down, I pulled a bent up envelope out from under my jacket, slice the end open with a box cutter, and then "plop" it on my dates side of the table.
Sue McGleno is curious.
She looks at the package, then at me....and then she carefully slides the contents out of the envelope and onto the table.
Its a small white box that boasts...... GOOD WOOD NYC.
So then she removed the lid and sees two beaded bracelets, one black and one pink. They both have a wooden hearts that bares our initials "S&K" and on the flip side is the date "2-14-12".
Nothing says "I LOVE YOU" quite like Hip Hop jewelry huh?
My next step was to have both of us put our trinkets on so I could take a photo with my Droid, and then declare my love universally with some assistance from Facebook.
But the lovefest got put on hold because "Kate" our server interupted and asked if either of us would like to start with a Caesar salad, when I answered in the affirmitive....I was asked the obligitory follow up question.....
"Are you going to want anchovies on that?"
But before I even responded, Kate actually lowered her arm, the one holding the order ticket. It was as if she was certain I would answer "No!"
But I didn't, Klecko loves the Anchovy.
So now I ask how often people go with the anchovy option, and she said about 20% of the time.
Her response was pretty consistant with the the replies I've fetched from the plethra of servers that have sqauwked salads with me in the past.
Typically the answer I most often hear is 25%.
Although the anchovy has been around forever, sometimes Americans forget that in their country....to them its a relitively new food source.
Ever since the Nina - Pinta and Santa Maria were trolling the United States coast line......Sardines were the fish staple of choice.
As this fledgling country grew, and embraced the industrial revolution...canned sardines were simply everywhere.
Why wouldn't my forefathers embrace this option?
Each resident of the Roman Empire used Anchovies every day in a fermented fish sauce (was it called Garum?) or the higher up muckity-mucks simply ate them raw in hopes that it would act as an aphrodisiac.
When you eat anchovies raw, fresh out of the ocean....they actually don't have a super intense taste. That comes from how it is handled, or preserved.
If you weren't aware, the anchovy family has as much diversity as humans, or dog breeds....they simply are not all the same.
In Russia, I think they call them Napoleon Anchovies because they are 9 inches long, and if you share a little vodka with a comrade...often times you will hear a remark like.....
"Yes, this Anchovy may in fact be an inch or 2 taller than Napoleon himself."
At that point it is polite to laugh...and then pour another shot.
Another thing about the Russian's that make them cool is that they smoke their anchovies....yum.
The English and Americans however soak theirs in a white vinegar, brine like thing, and that's what gives it such a powerful flavor that can viewed as contreversial to the palate.
But I'm regressing again, like I was saying...the sardine was the big deal in America for a long time, but after the industrial revolution and in the midst of WW2 (a time when canned foods hit an all time high)...the sardine numbers just about vanished.
Some science experts said the species were over fished, while other bright minds said that the Sardine lost a turf war to the Northern Anchovy.
So I'm guessing thats why when I was a kid, growing up in the 60's...anchovies were such a "Buzz Ingredient."
It was replacing a staple that had been deposed.
Anchovies share the same Yahtzee cup with other foods like Vegemite or Cilantro, foods where you simply are not allowed a neutral opinion, you either love them or hate them.....end of discussion.
With that said......I'm going to leave you with a recipe for the quintessential Caesar Salad.
I found it on all reicpes.com and props should be given I guess to Karen Weir....at least her name is next to it, but this is pretty much just how I'd throw this bad boy together.
6 cloves garlic (peeled)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
5 anchovy fillets (minced)
6 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch / salt
black pepper / ground to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups of day old bread / cubed
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
Mince 3 cloves of garlic, and combine in a bowl with mayo, anchovies, 2 tablespoon of parmesan and worcestershire sauce, mustard, lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, put in fridge until ready to use.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, cut the remaining 3 cloves of garlic into 1/4's and add hot oil. cook and stir until brown and then remove garlic from the pan. Add bread cubes to hot oil. Cook...turning frequently, until lightly browned, remove bread cubes from oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Place lettuce in a large bowl, toss with dressing, remaining parmesan cheese and seasoned bread cubes.