A good Caesar salad is hard to resist. Crisp romaine lettuce and crunchy croutons are the perfect vehicle for the robust, memorable dressing that accompanies it.
Italian immigrant, Caesar Cardini is credited with this Italian-American staple. Caesar immigrated to America in the early 20th century and eventually made his way to southern California and Tijuana, Mexico, where he operated restaurants. He trademarked his famous salad dressing in 1948.
His storied life is not too different than the many other immigrants that have made their homes here. It is no surprise that many of our common, day-to-day meals are a result of the imagination and ingenuity of immigrants, like Caesar Cardini. Immigrants have come to define who we are, as a nation.
2 cups Italian bread (or any other suitable bread for croutons)
1 Tbs olive oil
3 anchovies (packed in oil)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 large head of Romaine lettuce, chopped into large pieces
½ cup red onion, chopped
2 hardboiled eggs, sliced (optional)
Cut the loaf of bread into 1” thick slices. Lay the pieces of bread directly onto an oven rack and heat for about 15 minutes at 200°. Dry the bread but don’t toast it. Remove the dried bread from the oven and cut into 1” cubes. Toss the cubed bread in a bowl while drizzling a scant amount of olive oil. Put the croutons on a baking sheet and toast at 300° for about 15 minutes. I let mine go a bit too long in the oven and they tasted nutty. (Note of the brown hue of the croutons in the photo.)
Smear the anchovies, garlic, and salt on a cutting board with the flat side of a large, kitchen knife. Keep working the mixture with the knife until it forms a paste. I have to admit, I licked my fingers after preparing the paste. The anchovy and garlic was intense, but oh, so good, especially since I am crazy about anchovy!
Whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a bowl. Once blended, introduce the olive oil very slowly by drizzling the oil into the bowl and whisking briskly. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. Add a little water and whisk some more. Add just enough water to achieve a creamy consistency, like you might find in store bought, creamy salad dressings. Add the anchovy paste and Parmesan and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Transfer the dressing to a large salad bowl.
Lay the Romaine lettuce horizontally on a cutting board and make 1 ½” to 2” cuts from one end to the other. Romaine is a dense, compact lettuce and that makes it desirable for this salad. Add the chopped lettuce to the bowl and toss gently to incorporate the dressing. Add the croutons, onion and toss a few more times. Top with sliced hard boiled eggs, if you like. Sprinkle a little more Parmesan cheese on top and that’s it.
Now, since I mentioned that I love anchovies, I have to say that I enjoy adding strips of anchovy on top of the salad, radiating from the center like sun rays, but I know that anchovies are not adored by everyone. The amount of anchovy in the dressing should satisfy anchovy lovers without offending the rest of the crowd. In fact, the lemon juice and Dijon mustard tame the anchovy flavor remarkably well. Balance the dressing according to your own taste.
If you are cooking for someone who absolutely despises
consider finding a new friend consider substituting the
anchovy in the dressing with a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce. Everyone loves Worcestershire sauce,
right? Just don’t tell ‘em that
Worcestershire sauce contains anchovy!