Monday, October 12, 2015

Ever Wonder How The Salad, Caesar Got Its Name?


Italian immigrant, Caesar Cardini presumably tossed the first Caesar salad in July 1924, when he was running low on food and assembled a salad for his guests from what was leftover in his kitchen! I'll bet that was night to remember!

So many restaurants have Caesar salad on their menu, most of them are just mediocre and I'm almost always disappointed. Worse, now they come topped with your choice of grilled chicken, meat, or shrimp, not that anything is wrong with adding these items; to me doing so takes away from a great tasting salad being able to stand on its own. Assembling a great Caesar salad is like preparing a perfect bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. As simple as that may seem, it takes carefully selected, high quality ingredients to pull off the perfect creation.

For a great tasting Caesar you need crisp romaine, torn, not chopped. Homemade croutons made using an airy bread like Ciabatta with bite-size cubes that are baked until chestnut brown and crispy. Freshly shaved hard cheese and a vibrant dressing. 

Here is my version of the classic Caesar ... sans Cardini's call for raw egg and whole fresh caught anchovy fillets. Replicating fresh anchovy fillets from their origin is not easily feasible, so I discovered if I whisked some high quality anchovy paste into the dressing it gives the dressing the perfect hint of anchovy flavor. Instead of the customary Parmesan cheese, I use Pecorino Pepato, an intense, salty sheep’s milk cheese studded with peppercorns.

I wonder if Cardini thought while he was assembling his creation that decades later his salad would be one of the most popular salads in the world! Kudos to the late Cardini!

2 cups French bread, cut into bite-size cubes
Olive oil
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss French bread cubes with olive oil and garlic powder. Transfer to a rimmed baking pan. Give the pan a good shake so the cubes land in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes or until chestnut brown.

½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl combine until well blended, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, anchovy paste, salt and black pepper.

6 generous handfuls romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
⅓ cup fresh Pecorino Pepato cheese, shredded
Anchovy fillets, optional

In a large bowl, toss romaine leaves with just enough dressing to coat the leaves. Transfer salad to 6 rimmed plates, top each with Pecorino Pepato cheese and top the salad with croutons. Serve anchovy fillets and leftover dressing buffet style. Yield: 6 servings.