Caesar Salad {GF}: A Love Story

Of the 9 hens we bought this spring, only 1 has begun to lay. Since my neighbor and I share the hens and eggs, this means one egg per family every other day.

Come on, the rest of you girls, time to earn your keep!!!

Luckily I know a delightful way of feeding one’s family using just one homegrown egg: turn it into dressing for a Caesar salad.  My family’s been eating and making this salad forever — I’ve had the recipe memorized for at least 30 years.  To make it now with our own beautiful backyard eggs is a joy.

First though, I must share a little Caesar salad love story.  While living and working in Switzerland, I met a man I suspected was through-and-through wonderful; possibly even The One.  It was ridiculously bad timing, of course — I’d just quit my banking job and all systems were “go” for a return to the States.  Plus I hadn’t traveled all the way to Switzerland to fall in love with a guy from — dear Lord — New Jersey?!?!  But the attraction persisted and appeared to be mutual and finally one night he invited me to his (crappy bachelor pad) apartment to cook dinner. (It was not a good apartment.  A 20 minute walk — uphill both ways — from anything!  Surrounded by grumpy old Swiss neighbors with impeccable hearing; heaven forbid someone flush a toilet after 9pm!  Little did I know, that night, that this would be my crappy apartment, too, in just about 2 months’ time.)

Anyway, back to dinner: I’d decided to go bold and was starting with my mom’s Caesar salad.  We ate the salad — he said he loved it, but who knew, was he just being polite?  I went back into the kitchen to get the next course.  And then, glancing back into the dining room, a magical sight to be seen — my guy, salad bowl tipped to his mouth, drinking up every last drop of pungent, potent dressing.

At that moment, watching Bob pay our family’s favorite salad dressing the ultimate in respect, I knew: this was my person.

(It freaks him out a little when I tell this story.  He was just drinking good salad dressing.  The rocking of my world was unintended.)

So here it is, my recipe for a classic Caesar salad, adapted slightly from the way mom used to make it.  Mine’s garlickier; she takes the more refined (and classic Caesar) approach of rubbing the garlic around the bowl, then tossing it away, rather than mincing and adding it. If, post-Caesar, you plan on kissing a person that is not already in a committed relationship with you, you may omit the minced garlic.  You’d be silly though.  And misguided.  : )

Caesar Salad

1 tsp. freshly chopped garlic

2 2-inch long strips anchovy paste (available in most grocery stores, though you might have to look for it.  Can substitute 2 anchovy filets (or more.  yum.)

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar (sherry or champagne vinegars work too)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

the juice of 1/2 lemon

1 egg yolk (Coddling the egg helps separate the white from the yolk.  Gently drop a whole raw egg into a mug of very hot but not boiling water for 2-4 minutes.  Remove egg, rinsing under cool water to cool the shell quicker; then crack it, using fingers to catch the yolk while allowing the whites to slip through.)

1 large head Romaine lettuce, rinsed and dried, thick (tasteless) stems and ribs removed, hand-torn into bite-sized pieces (hand-torn lettuce shows 64x more love than knife-chopped lettuce.)

Parmesan cheese, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

In the bottom of a large salad bowl, combine garlic; anchovy paste; Worcestershire and vinegar.

Add olive oil and lemon juice, whisking until mixture is emulsified.

Just before serving, whisk in 1 egg yolk.  Finish dressing with a tsp. or so Parmesan cheese.

Before adding the lettuce, taste the dressing.  No two Caesar dressings are ever quite the same. It should be tart and pungent, but balanced.  Too tart?  Add more Worcestershire and/or olive oil.  A little bland?  Maybe squeeze that 1/2 lemon 1 more time; add a touch more vinegar; a few drops more Worcestershire.  Add in lettuce and toss the salad well.

Serve immediately with additional Parmesan and fresh-ground black pepper.  Makes enough for 4 regular people, or the 2 of us.

And don’t be surprised if someone — a special someone — wants to lick the bowl.


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