If you have Greek friends or you have been in a good amount of Greek dinners you may noticed that whenever ouzo or tsipouro (strong drinks, drank before main courses to enhance appetite) are served fish meze dishes (small dishes of appetizers) come along. You never probably took the time to think why, or you did and you concluded that Greece has sea all around her, so fish accessible almost everywhere (true too). Well the reason is that the saltiness of salted or non seafood blocks the taste of bitterness ( of the alcoholic drink) in the tongues's taste buds. Thus your brain receives stronger salty signals, which are much more pleasant than the bitter ones, right? Over time, ouzo and seafood are customarily served side by side on the table and make the forks to dance under the rhythm of ouzo-discussions.
So next time you have people over and ouzo appears on the table, make sure that you have some salted fish meze dishes to accompany it, eg like salted anchovies or sardines. You can make them yourshelf, extremely easily and quickly (sardine takes 4 hours to be ready for corrosion!).
For the anchovies:
Remove the back bone and the head, as I showed you here, and open the fish like ... a mat. In a colander with a plate beneath it (for fluid drainage) array the fish fillets in between layers of coarse salt until all fish are covered with salt and leave them like that for 2 hours. After that, rinse the salt off and place them in a bowl with white vinegar (of good quality) for 2 more hours. After that are basically done, so rinse them again in water, drain it well on paper towels and array the fish in a glass bowl cover them with olive oil and add also spices of your choice. In this condition you can keep the anchovies in the fridge almost indefinitely. Whenever you want to serve them, take some off the olive oil and just serve them in a plate. Easy peasy.
For the sardines:
As sardines are bigger, they need slightly more time in the salt. So with that said, decapitate and clean the bellies of the fish from all the guts without removing the spine. In a colander (for drainage) array the sardines between layers of coarse salt until they are all covered by salt. Leave them like that for 4-5 days and after this, the fish are basically ready to eat. In order to serve them, take them off the salt and let them rest in the water for half an hour, so that the excess salt goes off the fish. Serve them with olive oil, white vinegar, oregano and other herbs if you have a preference. (Two observation on this point: the sardines are becoming more salted when staying in salt, so if you keep them like that for a lot more extra days, make sure to increase the time in the water too. Also, the salt acts as a natural preservative so the fish don't need to stay in refrigerator while being covered with salt.)
Also here's an interesting video on how overfishing 4 large fish groups (salmon, cod, tuna and shrimp) destroys the ecosystems, pushing to extinction the endemic fish of every region. Prefer local fish that don't have to be transferred from the other side of Earth, they are delicious and full omega-3 fats (yes I know, my meze tray has smoked salmon too. You got me! :D)
Happy ouzo-situations and feel free to share any favorite appetizers with yours that go along with strong drinks. xo