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The King - Caesar Salad

Unforgettable, that’s what you are: Caesar salad just says it all. What a great dish for a summer's day, Or winters lunch to brighten the gray.

History:
The famous "Caesar Salad" is most commonly made with, romaine lettuce, fresh croutons, and vinaigrette from, garlic, lemon juice, eggs, anchovies, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Culinary lore says Caesar Cordini created the original recipe at his restaurant in Tiajuana, Mexico, in 1924, with many varieties following his original idea. The following recipe, which omits Worcestershire, and adds lemon juice along with anchovies, has become a personal favorite for its well balanced bright fresh flavors.

The Caesar dilemma: with or without anchovies? Originally Caesar salad did not include anchovies, so if you're not a fan make the recipe without them, just keep in mind most anti-anchovy activists, resulted from bad experiences based on inferior anchovy brands; those leaving unpleasant fishy/salty flavors inciting generations to cry: "hold the anchovies please". With a good quality anchovy; most enjoy the vinaigrette unaware of their presence in awe of the flavors. So purchase a good anchovy cured in olive oil or packed whole in sea salt; see for your self just how good it is! Stay away from anchovies resembling tiny shriveled minnows. Full bodied anchovies are best.

What's with those raw eggs?
Unfortunately serious health risks are posed by using raw eggs; therefore, eggs should be coddled, omitted or replaced with pasteurized egg products. Coddling/soft-boiling is easy and actually makes a creamer dressing. To Coddle: using fresh eggs in the shell, immerse the eggs into water right before boiling point; cook for 45 seconds to 2 minutes, and remove to a cold water bath for 20 seconds to stop the cooking process. Most chefs prefer the 45 second eggs, but many home cooks are more at ease with 1-2 minutes. Remember use only properly refrigerated eggs; grade A or AA. Washing eggs with water and or vegetable soap right before use is helpful, and avoid contact between the egg and its outside shell when breaking the egg open.

Caesar Salad Recipe:
Croutons:
½ loaf of white style bread, (day old bread works great,)
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced,
  1. Remove crust from bread if desired, then cut into 3/4 inch squares and place on cookie sheet.
  2. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter, add the garlic, sauté for 1 minute and drizzle over the bread squares mixing well.
  3. Bake at 300 - 325 on the cookie sheet for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy. Hot croutons appear less crunchy; developing more crunch as they cool. Also depending on bread choice, baking can take a half hour or more to form a good crunch.
Salad:
1 bunch, romaine lettuce
1. Wash well, dry and chop lettuce into large bite size pieces.
2. Set aside.

Vinaigrette:
1 fresh garlic clove, peeled
4-6 large anchovy fillets, or to taste,
1 egg yolk or whole egg
1 fresh lemon, juice only
1/2 - 3/4 cup virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated (Parmigiano-Reggiano if available)
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Reserve 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top the salad.
2. Put remaining ingredients into a food processor and blend until creamy. If dressing is too thick a little water, oil or lemon juice can be added, but do so cautiously as not to dilute flavors.
3. In a large salad bowl, toss the romaine lettuce together with the desired amount of vinaigrette, top with croutons and sprinkled with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Serve with: A fruity red wine; Pinot Noir is one suggestion.

Serves: 4 as a first course, or 2 as an entree.

Variations: Add one teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and or 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. For a Mexican Caesar add 2 cups of loose cilantro. For entrees, garnish with sliced grilled chicken breast, duck breast, or steamed/smoked seafood.

Caesar salad, in its simplicity reigns as king; its popularity has brought many a smile of enjoyment throughout the world. So feel good while you enjoy a Caesar with the rest of us.

Effie Mor/Author, Chef