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I got the idea for what to make for my column while watching a British food TV show last night. The chef was doing a tour of the Canal de Midi, much as I have done over the last few summers, touring along Castelnaudary, down to Marseille. It was just outside Marseille, in a town called Cassis, where I first had anchoïade (pronounced: an-show-ee-ad). Provence is full of dips and pastes—like fabulous, fresh French ketchups, except so much more than that. They are all made of the region's signature produce: artichokes, peppers, eggplants, anchovies, olives, tomatoes, basil, and garlic, garlic, and more garlic.
A diamond-standard Provençal original is anchoïade, an anchovy spread or dip. I've made it before, but this is a far simpler, more honest version. I love serving it as a surprise alternative to tapenade or as a French foil to bagna cauda. Anchoïade, like most Provençal pastes, is usually banged together in a pestle and mortar, and made from just four ingredients: the best anchovies you can find, packed in olive oil, olive oil itself, preferably extra virgin, white wine vinegar, and, of course, garlic. If anchovies are too salty or too fishy for you, just soak the fillets in milk for 15 minutes before using them. (That's also a useful trick for pissaladière.)
Bang together the four ingredients (you can also whiz them up in a food processor) and the anchoïade is done. I like to serve it with crisp, sweet sugar snaps for a fresh, light crudité aperitif with white wine. But in Cassis, I had it spooned over roasted sweet bell peppers, and I think it makes a terrific pairing with olive bread or breadsticks. It's unusual, quirky, and very regional to Provence.
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