Thursday, March 24, 2011

Caesar Salad, Fit for an Emperor

As we're talking spring and salads, I figured I ought to share my go-to.  Caesar is my standby salad for a crowd.  Everyone loves it, the ingredient list is simple and generally on hand in my kitchen,  and it pairs well with a wide variety of main courses.

The history of this salad is nearly as contentious as its namesake.  (But you don't get to rule the Roman Empire by agreeing with people.)  Some food historians credit Cesare Cardini, a restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico for concocting the salad during a busy weekend in 1924 when supplies ran low.  He mixed it tableside to add to the flair (and distract the customers from the fact that the salad contained few ingredients and the regular menu was largely unavailable.)  Others claim that Cardini's business partner, Paul Maggiora invented the concoction for a group of US servicemen in 1927 and called it "aviator salad" after the first tasters.  Still others set the origins of Caesar Salad in Chicago.  They claim that in 1903 Giacomo Junia, the owner of a small Italian pizza and pasta restaurant mixed up the salad and named it after Julius Caesar, whom he considered to be 'the greatest Italian of all time.'    Thank you History of Food for this info.

Regardless of who invented it, I say, "Grazie'.  Here's my version, with a nod to Giacomo, Paul, and Caesare.
Crispy Romaine from Iovines at the Market

Philly Food Lovers Caesar Salad
Serves 6

1 large head Romaine Lettuce

For dressing:
1/4 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
fresh ground pepper to taste (I use a lot)
Rinse, dry, and tear romaine lettuce.
mix all ingredients and shake well.

For croutons:
2 cups cubed italian or french bread
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt/pepper/garlic powder or your favorite seasoned salt blend
Toss bread with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with seasonings.  Spread on rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 425 til they are toasted--stir occasionally as necessary so they cook evenly and don't burn.  Do these ahead so they are completely cool.

1 hunk parmesan cheese- thinly slice rectangles of parmesan cheese (use cheese slicer or vegetable peeler); figure 2 slices per serving.

Toss lettuce with croutons, top with dressing and toss again.  Top with sliced cheese and serve.

Speaking of Caesar, here's an irreverent view, courtesy of Mel Brooks, of Caesar's palace....

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