Sunday, March 11, 2012

Classic Caesar Salad

Ever since I can remember, whenever me & my parents would go to a restaurant that offered a salad with the entree, my dad would ALWAYS get a Caesar salad. Eventually, I decided to try one for myself, and was sold for life. To this day, I ALWAYS get a Caesar if its offered; it's my absolute favorite salad, though a Greek salad runs a very close second. 

I still remember when I learned that Caesar salad dressing contained raw eggs and anchovies. Though I should have been horrified (I was a kid, after all), my attitude was more like "eh, who cares - it tastes good". Though I have found numerous Caesar salad recipes that omit the anchovies, I feel like it's a necessary ingredient, even though the original Caesar salad didn't even contain anchovies!

Speaking of the original Caesar salad, it wasn't named for Julius Caesar, but for Caesar Cardini of Tijuana, Mexico. He invented the salad out of sheer necessity and ingenuity in 1924 when a mad July 4th rush depleted the kitchen of everything except for some Romaine lettuce, a handful of eggs, a loaf of bread and some cheese. So, out of necessity, a classic was born.

I KNOW I can pretty much go anywhere for a Caesar salad; even most grocery stores carry a
 "Caesar in a bag" kit, which includes croutons, dressing, lettuce AND cheese. All you have to do is toss and serve.
Making this salad at home is so incredibly easy, that there's really no reason to buy the bagged stuff, or go spend $7.99 for a hit-or-miss restaurant version. For a full meal, top the salad with grilled chicken or salmon. 

That being said, some people are a little ooky about raw eggs, or fear making homemade emulsions like mayonnaise. You CAN coddle the eggs (which basically involves boiling the eggs for 1 minute) to alleviate any food poisoning fears, or, you can do what I did and skip the whole eggs, lemon juice and oil bit, and use a high-quality mayonnaise instead. 

Classic Caesar Salad
Croutons adapted from Simply Recipes

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled & grated
1 baguette, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I prefer Hellmann's)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp ground mustard (dry mustard)
1/2 tsp whole grain or Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water (optional)
4-6 small heads of Romaine lettuce
Grated or shaved Parmagiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano

Prepare the Croutons: Whisk the olive oil and the garlic together and let rest for 30 minutes. Brush the baguette slices with the garlic-infused oil, then broil until just lightly browned. Let cool, then cut into cubes.

Prepare the Dressing: Combine the mayonnaise, Parmagiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano, red wine vinegar, grated garlic, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, ground mustard, grain or Dijon mustard, white pepper and salt. Whisk together by hand, puree in a blender or with a stick blender, or process in a food processor until the dressing is smooth. If too thick, slowly add water while whisking/pureeing/processing until the desired consistency is achieved.

Prepare the Salad: Trim the ends from the Romaine, remove and discard the outer leaves, then gently wash and dry the leaves. Tear the leaves (do not cut!) into bite-sized salad pieces, and chill the lettuce until ready to serve.

Toss the chilled lettuce with the prepared dressing in a large bowl. Top individual servings with croutons, additional grated or shaved Parmagiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano and a few turns of fresh cracked black pepper.

Caesar salad


  1. This looks delicious! I love homemade Caesar dressing.

    1. Thank you, Marcie! Not having to deal with raw egg makes it MUCH easier and safer, too! :)