Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Basics: Caesar Salad

Salads rock. From a classic potato salad that is almost a meal in itself, to a fruit salad like a Waldorf, to the signature radicchio salad served at Nostrana, I love them all. And don't get me started on salads made with beans, pasta or grains or we'll be here all night. Crisp, fresh and crunchy, they can cleanse your palate or fill your stomach.

My all-time favorite, though, has to be the Caesar, with its creamy, deep flavor from the emulsification of oil, egg, lemon, garlic and anchovy. For me, the definitive version was the one served at Zefiro in Northwest Portland in the 90s. The spears of romaine were left whole and diners were encouraged to pick up the leaves with their fingers, always a plus in my book.

I've had awful versions, too, both in restaurants and in the bottled dressings, some of which bear no resemblance to the classic recipe. My friend Kim makes a fabulously lemony Caesar, crushing the garlic cloves and mixing the other ingredients by hand in a salad bowl before tossing it with the lettuce and parmesan.

But my day-to-day recipe comes from the old Silver Palate Cookbook and is made in about five minutes in a food processor. Plus it easily makes enough for a week's worth of salads and can double as a dip for crudités if friends drop over for a glass of wine.

Garlic-Anchovy Dressing
Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins

3-4 anchovy fillets
1-2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1/4 c. red wine vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 c. olive oil

Put all ingredients except salt, pepper and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Then process, adding olive oil in a thin stream until the dressing becomes creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Read more recipes in The Basics series: 20 Minute Tomato Sauce, House Vinaigrette, Chile Sauce and Strata.


Cathy said...

I completely agree with you about salads and a good homemade Caesar dressing is as good as it gets. I love that old Silver Palate Cookbook.

Kathleen Bauer said...

It's all about the anchovies around here. We're quite addicted!

Anonymous said...

I add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of freshly grated parm to this as well. Delish!

Kathleen Bauer said...

Great idea, Anon, thanks!