Chosen Bites: Hail Caesar and his salad

There are as many versions of the classic Caesar Salad as there are stars in the sky; check out this classic recipe.

Caesar Salad 370 (photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Caesar Salad 370
(photo credit: Laura Frankel)
With all the news of processed food not being good for any of us and with an emphasis on homemade foods with whole ingredients, many home cooks are revamping their family dinners. An easy place to start is with delicious homemade salad dressing.
There are as many versions of the classic Caesar Salad as there are stars in the sky.
From a delicate and subtle sauce barely kissing lettuce leaves to a full on thick mayonnaise concoction, Caesar salad ranks as one of the top salads of all time.
I know many people purchase bottled dressings, but Caesar is easy to make and once you learn how to do it, you can put your own spin on it.
Caesar Salad was created by Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur who operated restaurants in Mexico. The rich, yet refreshing dressing is a perfect balancing act of salty, sour and rich oil/cheese that is satisfying and delicious. The basic recipe has olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, wine vinegar, lemon or lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, raw or coddled egg yolks and Parmesan cheese.
We have a favorite Caesar recipe in our home that is my son Jonah’s favorite salad. The tart flavor will wake up any boring lettuce and because I use a mild extra virgin olive oil, the recipe is perfect for Passover as well, minus the bread of course.
Caesar Salad
This dressing is a snap to put together and any leftovers can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
1 small baguette, cut into thin, bias cut slices1 cup extra virgin olive oil2 cloves of garlic, creamed* + 1 clove for the bread3 anchovy filets**3 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice1/2 teaspoon kosher salt½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1 egg yolk**1 teaspoon red wine vinegar3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 176 Celsius
1. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until light brown and crispy.
2. Remove the bread from the oven and rub the warm slices with a whole, but peeled clove of garlic. Set aside.
3. Place the creamed garlic, anchovy filets, lemon or lime juice, egg yolk, vinegar and salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl.
4. Whisk the mixture until combined. Slowly drizzle in the oil, drop by drop. Continue adding the oil until the mixture resembles a very loose mayonnaise. You do not want aioli; you want a sauce that will lightly cling to your leaves. Add the cheese if using.
For the Romaine
You can toss the leaves with the dressing and serve with the croutons, or you can make Jonah’s favorite version.
2 romaine hearts, cut in half lengthwise1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oilKosher salt and pepper
1. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium. Brush the romaine heart halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Place the lettuce, cut side down, onto the heated grill or grill pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until the lettuce is lightly charred.
3. Transfer the lettuce to a platter or individual plates and generously drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle with additional cheese if using.
*To cream garlic; mince the cloves on a cutting board. Sprinkle the pieces with a pinch of kosher salt and rub the flat side of your knife back and forth until the garlic has a creamy texture.
**The original Caesar had Worcestershire sauce that gave the sauce its lip smacking savory quality, I prefer anchovies for their clean, briny flavor, and this recipe is all about being homemade.
***If you are concerned about serving raw eggs, you can coddle your eggs by gently poaching them in the shell for a few minutes.  Bring a pot of water to the boil. Place your egg in the shell into the water and boil for 1 minute. Plunge the egg into ice water to stop the cooking process. Remove the yolk and proceed with the recipe.