Classic Caesar Salad isn’t hard to make, in fact it can be a simple and inexpensive salad to accompany dinner. Top it with grilled chicken or salmon and it makes an excellent dinner!
I’ve been a little obsessed with classic Caesar salads lately. Maybe it’s because it so hard to find a really good one. Or maybe it corresponds with my other new obsession, anchovy paste. It could also be the plethora of farm fresh eggs in the fridge or the fresh lettuce in the garden. It’s more than likely a combination of all of these things, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll say that I am obsessed with Caesar salads because they are just really friggin’ good. (Actually, any fresh, well-dressed salad is really friggin’ good but we’ll stick to the Caesar right now)
So, the beauty of the classic Caesar salad is in the simplicity. It doesn’t take many ingredients, and I would be willing to bet that you already have most of them in your house right now ( except maybe for the anchovy paste, but I’m getting to that). The secret to making this salad really divine is to make sure that the ingredients are as fresh as you can get them. Notice I didn’t say “expensive”…I said “fresh”. If the romaine lettuce is looking a little lackluster at the store, don’t make this salad. It’ll taste awful. ( By the way, you can usually find the freshest stuff in the very back on the bottom of the lettuce bin. Never grab the stuff on top) Will the $30 per pound Parmesan taste great on this salad? You betcha! But the good quality, less expensive stuff that moves faster in the cheese aisle will taste great too.
Now, lets talk about two things that seem to make people a little squeamish: Anchovies and raw eggs.
Let’s tackle the easy one first. Eggs. There is some debate on whether raw eggs are safe to eat. I , personally, am not scared of eating my eggs raw, but I get my eggs from my neighbor who gathers eggs everyday. I know more about the origin of my eggs than most people. And really, for any dish that calls for raw eggs ( i.e. Hollandaise sauce, ice cream, mayo) I would spring for the organic, free-range variety instead of the cheap kind. You want some taste in your raw egg. But if you are pregnant, very young, or have some kind of immune disease you should use pasteurized eggs.
The next tough mental hurdle seems to be anchovies. People seem to think that anchovies taste like old gym socks. I think people are getting anchovies confused with sardines, which can absolutely taste like old gym socks ( unless you douse them in hot sauce and eat them on a saltine cracker). Anchovies are a super savory, oily fish that really remind me more of Asian fish sauce. It may not look real appetizing, but the flavor is unbelievable. And don’t worry about a “fishy” taste, you really won’t pick any of that up. That being said, I like to buy the anchovy paste that comes in tubes so that I’m not left with a tin of anchovies to use up.
What?! I said they were delicious, I didn’t say I wanted to put them on my oatmeal.
The last thing before I get to the Classic Caesar Salad is the importance of dry lettuce. As important as it is to wash your lettuce, it is equally important to dry it. Wet lettuce = horrible salad. So please us a salad spinner, or wrap whole wet leaves in a kitchen towel and blot furiously until the moisture is gone. Then continue with assembly.
Ok! On to the recipe!
- 1 small head of Romaine lettuce
- 1 lemon
- 1 clove large garlic minced
- 1 tsp anchovy paste or 1 fillet minced
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil more or less
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup croutons homemade or store bought
- Rinse, dry and tear or chop romaine into a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk together the juice of lemon, garlic, anchovy, egg and half the Parmesan cheese. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until you have a nice, creamy emulsion. Season with salt and pepper and add more oil or lemon juice if needed. You should just taste the twang of the lemon, but it shouldn't be overpowering.
- Pour the dressing over the lettuce, add in croutons and toss the salad until coated with dressing. Top with the remaining Parmesan and serve.
- Serves 4 as a side dish.