I’m calling this the soft launch of Foodie Friday. I’m hoping to take on a food topic each week – at least one – to whet our appetites for weekend munchies.
Today Heather Goldstone at Climatide reports we have 40 years to start liking anchovies. Scientists say they’re about all we’ll have left in our oceans if current trends continue. New studies document a two-thirds decline in the world’s large, predatory fish and a doubling of small fish over the past century.
Goldstone posted a video of Dr. Villy Christensen who is presenting these new findings on shifting fish populations to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. One of his suggestions in the face of collapsing global fish stocks is “eating through the food chain.” That means skipping over larger fish like tuna, halibut and salmon and heading right for the little guys like herring, sardines, and (my favorite) anchovies.
Now for a delicious secret: Anchovies can be really tasty. When they’re properly prepared. I prefer to eat them marinated in oil, vinegar and herbs – a la boquerones. Ever tried them? The best part is Oregon has its own micro anchovy fishery. Microfisheries? I just made that up, but I like the sound of it.
Astoria Pacific Seafoods has one boat that occasionally goes out and catches anchovies in a purse seine net (when the company’s not too busy catching sardines). The tiny fish are later filleted by hand and marinated in oil, vinegar and herbs and spices. The vinegar ‘cooks’ the fish – like ceviche – and removes the super fishy flavor and makes them tangy and delicious. Don’t believe me? This native Portlander agrees:
“If you’ve never tried boquerones en vinagre, but are familiar with the fishiness of sardines or canned anchovies, you’re in for a surprise. The fish flavor is far less intense in a boquerone. The taste of the tiny fish filets has more in common with ceviche, I should think, than the anchovies most avoid on pizzas or a caesar salad. A fresh vinegar tartness prevails, the texture of the fish flesh is almost like fresh. Slap a couple on top of a piece of toast, or eat them from the end of a toothpick. They’re good. Especially with a cold crisp beer.”
(FYI: You can get these Oregon Coeur de la Mer boquerones at Whole Foods in Portland and Seattle. Jay Bornstein, a co-creator of the product, said his company is expanding to Whole Foods stores in the Rocky Mountain region this year.)
Grilled sardines can be pretty tasty too. One of my favorite memories of living in Astoria (the sardine capital of the West Coast) is the night I got a knock on my door at 10:30. It was my friend Nate, just stopping by to drop off a bucket of whole sardines. Surprise!
They were rejects from the sardine processing plant that sits right on the downtown Riverwalk. He just wandered down there and asked for a bucket of fish. We grilled some of them up that week. The sardines off the Columbia River are huge and richly flavored with omega-3 fats. Most of them are frozen and shipped over to Asia, though. I get the sense few people here in Oregon appreciate the little fish that are caught off our coast. But if global fish stocks continue to trend toward the little guys, I wonder if the rest of the world will start clamoring for Oregon’s bait fish.