Walk down any street in the seacoast town of Bagnara Calabra during the summer months and you’ll encounter women dressed in black screaming their lungs out! No, the ladies aren’t auditioning for a new Jean-Paul Sartre play about existential angst, rather they’re selling fish. The ladies set up shop early in the morning, usually during outdoor “market day” on Tuesday and hold court over passers-by with screeching annunciations such as” “pesce fresche” (fresh fish), “alici” (anchovies), “anguilla” (eel).
The female fish mongers usually carry a selection of 1-2 fish and the quality and freshness isn’t up for discussion. One can, of course, bargain with the ladies and if you’re nice enough they’ll even gut and descale your anchovies, as they did for me on an early August morning.
One of my favorite ways to prepare fresh anchovy is via curing or marinating white anchovies (alici fresche marinate) in lemon juice, garlic, parsley, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, red pepper flake, and extra virgin olive oil. The Spanish call this dish boquerones and utilize white vinegar instead of lemon juice. The acid and salt in the marinate will cook the fish and preserve their delicate meat. The end result is a buttery, sweet, and slightly tart fish dish that will have you screaming with joy.
Marinated Fresh Anchovies: Alici Fresche Marinate
- 1-2 pounds of fresh white anchovies that have been cleaned and washed well
- 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (you could also use white vinegar like the Spanish do)
- 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
- ½ cup of finely chopped parsley
- 4-5 garlic cloves finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- In a larger, flat, bowl layer the fish and add the lemon juice, oil, pepper, salt, garlic, and parsley. Mix the ingredients gently and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the fish to marinate and cook for at least 4 hours. The fish will keep for 2-3 days. I like to eat marinated anchovies or Alici Marinate with a large side dish of fried potatoes and a tomato salad.
- There are varying marinated anchovy recipes that suggest you should remove the fish from a first marinate, dry them well, and thereafter dress the fish with fresh olive oil, lemon juice, etc. However, I find this process unnecessary.