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The anchovy—that diminutive fish that is very similar to a sardine—has a lot more uses than as an optional pizza topping. It is most closely associated with the zesty cuisine of the Mediterranean, particularly Italy and southern France, where it is frequently combined with olive oil, garlic and black olives in a variety of ways.

Provided below are some representative offerings from both home and abroad, designed to garner new respect for the under-appreciated anchovy. In all instances, you can use the two-ounce tins of anchovies packed in olive oil. Each can contains 9 or 10 anchovy fillets.

PISSALADIERE

Think of this specialty from the Provence region of France as a cheese-less pizza. In certain parts of the U.S., it is sold in Italian bakeries and delis as “tomato pie.” Save time by using prepared pizza dough.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 (15 ounce) can Italian-style tomatoes, drained
1 11-by-14-inch pizza crust, unbaked
1 (2 ounce) can anchovies, drained
12 oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cut onions into quarters, and thinly slice each quarter. Add to skillet along with garlic and thyme. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden—about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and as you do so, break them into small pieces with the back of a spoon. Cook over high heat until liquid has evaporated and the sauce is thick—about 5 minutes. Place the pizza crust on a lightly oiled baking sheet and spread the tomato mixture on top, going right to the edges. Arrange the anchovy fillets in spoke-like fashion and sprinkle with the olive halves. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, or until crust is crisp. Let cool slightly before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 8 pieces.

CAESAR SALAD

What is arguably America’s favorite salad was actually invented in Tijuana, Mexico, in the 1920s. It often uses anchovies as a garnish, but in this version, adapted from “City Cuisine” by Susan Feiniger and Mary Sue Milliken, the fillets are an integral part of the dressing.

6 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
½ cup + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups unseasoned bread cubes or croutons
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1 large head romaine lettuce

Place the anchovies in the container of a food processor with the pepper and ½ cup of olive oil. Process until smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Add the Parmesan and process again. Remove one-third of this mixture, and mix it with the croutons in a small bowl, tossing to coat well. Place in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until croutons are crisp and golden. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, place the remaining anchovy mixture in a large salad bowl and set aside. Finely mince the garlic and place in a small bowl with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Mash together with a fork, and add to the anchovy mixture in the salad bowl, along with the next 5 ingredients. Coddle the egg in boiling water for 1 minute. Crack open and add to salad bowl, whisking well with the other ingredients. Thoroughly wash and dry lettuce, and tear into bite-sized pieces. Add to dressing in salad bowl, tossing well. Add croutons, and toss again. Serves 6.

ANCHOVY BRUSCHETTA

The piquant flavors of southern France and Italy converge in this easy appetizer which should be accompanied with a robust red wine.

2 (2 ounce) cans anchovies
16 thin slices French bread
2 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Drain the anchovies, reserving about 2 tablespoons of the oil. Place the anchovies in a small bowl, cover with cold water, and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lay the French bread slices on a large baking sheet, and broil 6 inches from the heat about 30 seconds on each side. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove from the oven; leave the broiler on. Drain the anchovies, pat dry with paper towels and coarsely chop. Combine anchovies with reserved oil and the remaining ingredients. Mixture should be chunky. Spread thinly on toasted bread slices and quickly return to the oven. Broil just until slices are warm—about 1 minute. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

LINGUINE WITH GARLIC AND OIL

This aromatic pasta dish is admittedly not for all tastes since it is quite caloric and strongly flavored. Serve with lots of Italian bread for mopping up the sauce, and pass the breath mints after!
1 pound linguine
2 cups olive oil
1 tablespoon minced jar garlic
2 (2 ounce) cans anchovies, drained
1 1/3 cups small pecan halves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, garnish

Prepare the linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the oil, garlic and anchovies in a medium saucepan over medium heat; do not let garlic burn. Add the pecans and cook 10 minutes longer. Place the drained linguine in a large serving bowl, pour the sauce on top, and toss thoroughly. Garnish liberally with grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4 to 6.

Ginnie Manuel is a Midlothian-based freelance writer and cookbook author.