I've never been a picky eater and am always willing to try foods, even when I haven't enjoyed them in the past. The reason is that tastes change over time, and sometimes the first, second, or even sixth encounter may not be the best representation of the ingredient. Case in point: anchovies.
As a kid, it only came up as a gross pizza topping, and even as an adult, I was usually turned off by the fishiness or the intense salinity. But that all changed after a trip to France and Italy where I had it on a Salade Niçoise, worked into a garlicky emulsion in Bagna Càuda, and yes, even on pizza (technically a Pissaladière).
Today, anchovies are one of my favorite ways to make any dish taste better. Good anchovies are briny but not salty, fish forward but not fishy, and packed with enough natural umami to give MSG a run for its money. When selecting them, you want to look for ones in a bottle so you can see the anchovies inside. They should be plump and dusty rose in color, not shriveled up or a dingy brown.
I know we're not quite to spring yet, but after a few months of the mellow comforting tastes of simmered and stewed dishes, my tastebuds yearn for something more edgy and stimulating. Despite its simplicity, this three-component salad is exactly what I crave.
The sweet, juicy asparagus is coated in a tangy mustard vinaigrette, while the whole anchovies deliver a pop of salt and an explosion of umami. The jammy eggs come to the aid of your overstimulated taste buds by lending a soothing richness that brings all the components together in harmony.
- 300 grams asparagus thick stalks
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 4 anchovy filets
- Peel the bottom half of the asparagus stalks and then cut them in half.
- Boil the eggs until the whites are set, but the yolks are still very soft; chill and peel them. You can check out my soft-boiled egg method if you need help with this.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus. Return to a rolling boil and then cook for 1 minute. Drain the asparagus well, but don't rinse it.
- Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and salt in a bowl. Toss the boiled asparagus in the dressing.
- Plate the asparagus in a haphazard stack along with the anchovies.
- Tear the eggs in half with your fingers and place them randomly around the asparagus.
- Serve immediately.