Anchovy and Olive Crackers

Anchovie and Olive Crackers

Ok, I know how it sounds…not good.  All I can ask is that, as you think this concept through, you keep in mind that there are a lot of people out there right now eating horrible little yellow fish crackers.  These are better.  They are probably the original fish cracker; and they actually contain fish!

I dredged this recipe up because we are in the middle of a binge on soups and these little treats are a perfect accompaniment to the vaguely Mediterranean soup that I have slotted for this evening.  Although they may sound like a strange concept, these beauties are a sharp-flavored, simply wonderful companion to a wide range of soups and are generally a welcome addition to most table settings as a simple side dish.

These crackers actually don’t really taste very fishy.  They have a ton of butter in them and I think that this washes out a lot of the fishiness that a lot of people would usually associate with anchovies.  You just get the sharp salty flavor of the anchovies as an accent to the Parmesan cheese, and a little richness from the olives.  Vary the spices to suit, but I like a pile of crushed black pepper accented with some cayenne.  Try to make sure you use grated Parm rather than the sawdust stuff in the tube and chop both the olives and fish up pretty well before you blend them with the flour.  It works better with an even distribution of bait chunks throughout the dough.

If you have a food processor, a rolling pin, and a baking sheet, this recipe is a snap.  Just grind the stuff up to form a coarse dough ball, chill it down for about 30 minutes, and roll it flat.  After that, all that remains is cutting somewhat triangular shapes and briefly baking them on a baking sheet.  Baking time will vary wildly depending on oven setup, so just bake until the corners turn a nice golden brown.  Trust me, you should not be able to fuck this up.

Once baked, cool your lovelies on a wire rack and bag up the ones that you are not going to use immediately.  They will keep a very long time; weeks in the refrigerator and months in the freezer.  That’s right, you can resurrect them down the road for a tasty soup-based lunch.  No effort or forethought required.  Every time I cook these, I ask myself, “Self, why do you not do this more often?”.  The fact is that the simplicity of this recipe kicks it further down the memory hole than I should allow it go. These crackers really are a great addition to the table for a lot of meals and I should make more of an effort to have them on hand.

Accept the anchovy challenge and make a batch for yourself and bake a batch up…this week!  As always, let me know what you think and what you served them with.  Cheers.  Off to cook the soup now.


Anchovy and Olive Crackers
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup chilled butter, cut into chunks
  • ½ cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 2 oz. canned anchovies, drained
  • ¾ tsp. cayenne
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper, crushed
  • kosher salt to top
  1. Place flour, cheese, and butter into a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add cayenne and black pepper and blend until combined. Add anchovies and black olives and process until mixture forms a dough. Turn out onto a counter and lightly knead for about a minute. Form into a ball and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll to about ⅛ inch thickness using a rolling pin. Cut into 2 to 3 inch strips using a rotary cutter and then cut crosswise into equal-sized triangles. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake in preheated over for 10 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool on wire rack.


Sweetened Lentils with Cumin and Tomato Served with Cracker Bread

Sweet Lentils with Cumin and TomatoLentils are really great when you need to cook something tasty in a relatively short time frame.  Although the folks that cook lentils a lot seem to draw relatively fine distinctions between different varieties, availability usually dictates which variety I use.  In this dish, standard brown lentils are flavored using a spice blend that includes cumin, mustard, cayenne, turmeric, and asafetida.  Brown sugar is added to lend just a bit of sweetness and tomatoes provide acidity to keep the dish from being cloying.   Green chili and cilantro add some finishing notes to the flavor profile.  Asafetida is a ground resin from a fennel-like plant native to the middle and far east.  It can be obtained at some middle-eastern groceries or from the folks at World Spice.

My brother in law seemed to appreciate this quite a bit.  As luck would have it, Brinn had prepared some really wonderful cracker bread the previous day.  As you can probably see in the photo, the cracker is topped with a broad variety of spices and seeds laid out in strips across the width of the bread; pretty fun way to add some interest to this basic bread…. 

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Marrakech Street Bread

Marrakech Street BreadI don’t  do much of the baking around the house.  As luck would have it, my marriage came complete with a highly capable baker.  Definitely a lucky deal for me.  Anyway, Brinn typically handles this side of the kitchen labor with much more competence than I could muster, whacking out loaves of sourdough, biscuits, cookies, brownies, and flat breads such as this one. 

This flat bread (or relatively flat bread) is perfect for many of more highly seasoned dishes that we cook.  It is somewhat moist, sturdy enough to use as an eating utensil without being chewy, and quick to make.  The semolina in the dough gives it a toasty flavor and the milk used in the dough serves to lighten the loaves and smooth out the texture of the crumb.  Her version of this recipe was inspired by one presented in Paula Wolfert’s book, The Food of Morocco and follows it reasonably closely.  As noted above, she substitutes milk for the water to alter the texture and also uses some preparation techniques that vary slightly from those described in the original recipe…. 

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Harcha – Moroccan Semolina Bread (or biscuit?)

DSC_0030There is this young lady that goes by the name Alia.  Bless her soul, this gal is both an enthusiastic cook and a savage eater.  She is absolutely hilarious and has such an amazing, energized style that it makes you want to track her down and give her a big hug.  I don’t follow things on youtube much but Her Channel is worth checking out and, if you like her style, subscribing to; she typically has interesting things going on.  In addition to having a super cool attitude, she has a bunch of great Moroccan recipes that, I would assume are pretty authentic.

I was fascinated when I saw her video on a type of bread called Harcha.  Simply had to make them.  After slaving away for about…I don’t know, less than half an hour, I had a fresh batch of these suckers to go with dinner.  Style wise, they lie somewhere between a chunk of shortbread and a biscuit.  The heartiness of the pan toasted semolina and the richness of the butter makes a great platform for a wide variety of spreads and toppings.  They are really simple, really rich, really fast to make, and not at all good for you.  Yay!  We served ours with some triple cream brie just in case the hefty 230 calories and 3.3 g of fat in each harcha wasn’t enough.  Ate some lamb with them too in order to further boost that fat count for the week. … 

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