About three years ago my friend Natasha invited me over for a dinner party in her lovely midtown Manhattan apartment with the most spectacular view of the city I’ve ever experience. But this isn’t a blog about real estate… Lets talk about the food. Her then-boyfriend (now husband), made a beautiful dinner that included the most perfectly roasted side of salmon I have ever had. But that wasn’t what impressed me. What I was blown away by was the simple, perfect, three ingredient appetizer of crostini with mozzarella and anchovies.
Look — Its not that I’m unaware of the general weirdness of anchovies as an ingredient … its just that, despite their weirdness, they happen to be freaking amazing. To me anchovies are the epitome of umami. Umami is the fifth taste that everyone in food seems to have embraced in the last decade. In addition to salty, sweet, bitter and sour there is now Umami, a Japanese word that can loosely be translated into “pleasant savory taste.” Umami is kind of like saltiness but amplified with richness and earthiness.
Anchovies add umami to everything and are umami on their own. I seriously recommend having them as a pantry staple to add to pastas, salad dressings, sauces and vegetables. And when you’re ready to stop mixing them into stuff and ready to fully embrace their flavor … this crostini is the way to go.
I cannot stress this enough — use good quality anchovies. Anchovies are one of those ingredients that, unfortunately, generally have their quality related to their price. If you are going to be mixing them into a sauce, then really any brand will do. But when, as with this recipe, you are keeping them whole, please go for the good stuff. My favorite commonly accessible brand is Ortiz.
- 8 slices of french baguette
- 8 ounce ball of fresh mozzarella
- 8 fillets of salt-cured anchovies
- 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Place the bread in a single layer on baking sheet. Place the bread into the oven and allow to bake for 10 minutes until it has begun to turn a light golden brown.
- While the bread is baking, slice the mozzarella into 8, ¼ inch slices.
- Rub the cloves of garlic over the bread and then top each slice with a slice of mozzarella and one small anchovy fillet.
- Put the bread back into the oven and allow cook for 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted and the anchovies have softened.
- Serve very warm.