Friday, March 7, 2014

Hail Caesar! Salad, that is.

I’ve had Caesar salad at fine restaurants, prepared table-side with all kinds of flash and flourish.  It was good, but what a bother.  I’ve had so-called Caesar salad off of quickie lunch menus that I wish I hadn’t bothered with at all.  You might conclude from this that good Caesar salad is complicated.and difficult to prepare.  Not so. 

To make a really great Caesar salad at home, you need just four simple ingredients:

Ingredient the first.  You need lettuce.  Get a head of fresh Romaine lettuce, lay it on its side and cut it widthwise into strips about an inch wide.  (Yeah, yeah, everyone says you’re not supposed to cut lettuce.  Y’know what I say?  Get chopping.)  Rinse it well, and then blot it or spin it dry.  Easy!

Ingredient the second.  You need shredded Parmesan cheese.  Buy it that way or grate it yourself.  Either way, it’s no sweat.

Ingredient the third.  You need croutons.  This is easy because those come in a box, right?  Don’t even think about it, buttercup!  Take 3 or 4 slices of good bread and trim off the crusts.  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter with a smashed garlic clove.  Brush both sides of the bread with the melted garlic butter, and sprinkle with a little salt.  Then cut into cubes and arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until brown and crispy.  That's not so hard, is it?

Okay, if you really can’t abide toasting bread chunks in the oven, I still don’t advise buying prepared croutons.  Why not go with some toasted, slivered almonds instead?  I know some will say it’s not authentic, but let them call the salad police and file a report.  You still get the same crunch, great flavor, and bonus:  this dish is now gluten free.
Moving on.  To make the salad, simply toss the lettuce, cheese and croutons with…

Ingredient the fourth.  Caesar dressing.  Take a stroll down the salad dressing aisle at your local grocery store, and you’ll find there are many options.  Many expensive options.  Many seed-oil-laden, artificially flavored, chemically emulsified…  Okay, you know where I’m going with this.  We’re making our own homemade Caesar dressing.  Trust me; it isn’t that hard.

Grab a bowl and an immersion blender.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, read a few more of my posts, especially this one and this one and this one, and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.  Nonetheless, if you want to do this with a food processor or even a hand mixer, you'll probably live to see another day.

So, into the bowl goes the following:
  • ½ cup good mayonnaise.  (Extra points if you make your own homemade mayo.)
  • ¾ cup olive oil.  (Extra virgin is fine, but I find I like the “light tasting” olive oil better in salad dressings.)
  • The juice of 1 fresh lemon.  (Don’t forget to save those peels for citrus vinegar.)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, peeled and smashed.  (If you're using a hand mixer, you'll want to mince your garlic.  If you're using an immersion blender, you don't need to.  Just saying.)
  • 1 tin (2-ounces) of flat anchovy fillets in olive oil.  Dump ’em in, oil and all.  (Don’t even think about “holding the anchovies.”  If this grosses you out, just pinch your nose and don’t look.)

Blend until smooth, and you’ve got delicious, fresh, healthy Caesar dressing that you made yourself!  (Aww… look at you!  Granny is so proud!)  Now toss it all together -- the lettuce, the cheese, the croutons and some of that awesome dressing (coat it, but don’t drown it) -- and serve something you can really be proud of.

Add a fifth simple ingredient -- grilled chicken strips or even some nice salmon -- and elevate this dish to a meal.



  1. I can't believe I am the first to comment on this recipe. I've been searching for a good easy one and this looks like it.