Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

about to be roasted!
This is one of my all time favorite salads. In fact it is one of my all time favorite things to eat. It is tangy, hearty, full of flavor and a healthy salad! What could be better?  I promise,  you will never buy caesar dressing again.

I first learned about this recipe from the Carmolas, close family friends of mine.  I was stunned by how delicious it was. I just could not believe what real caesar dressing was suppose to taste like, it is completely different than the thick flavorless muck you buy in the supermarket.

Caesar is much closer to a vinegrette, and less like ranch which many people don't know.

This recipe does not keep, so make it for a big group because leftovers are out of the question. The dressing itself keeps for a day or two, but that is it. This recipe is a good sized meal for 6 people, perhaps with extra bread on the side, just in case.

This is another recipe that you can follow exactly and still not get the perfect flavor. After you make this a few times you will be able to taste the dressing and know it needs more lemon juice, or worcestershire, it tastes a bit different every time.

Making your own croutons is so easy and WORTH IT. Again the croutons you buy in the supermarket taste like dog biscuits, once you have made your own. With 10-15 minutes of work, you will have the best croutons of your life!

I hope that everyone makes this at some point, its just out of this world. Once I've made it for people, they crave it constantly. Im telling you, with salad its ALL about a good, made from scratch dressing. It will make the non-salad eaters.....well salad eaters.

There are several notes below for this recipe, it is not hard to make, but there a few crucial steps that must be followed to make a banging salad.

This recipe is based on the one first taught to me by the Carmolas and also from Barefoot Contessa Caesar dressing from her book, "Barefoot Parties".

Parmesan Note: Grate the parmesan in a a food processor. You want it corsely grated like you buy in the store, not thinly shredded. In fact, this is one time when the store bought parm works just as well. The texture is just better.

Bread Note: Any good crusty bread will do, a french baguette or hard sourdough, you want a bread with a nice hard top that is soft inside. Do not use sandwich bread, or a soft bread, it will not work well.

Salad Note: Using a clean pillow case works as a great salad spinner in a pinch. Simply place the washed salad in a pillow case and hang it. The water will drip out of the pillow case leaving you with drier lettuce! Another trick I learned from the Carmolas, love them!

Egg Note: If you are nervous about using raw egg, you can use 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise or buttermilk. I have never had a problem, but I always buy local or cage free organic eggs.

 Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
seriously, this is like eating heaven. 

The Goods: Serves 6-8

The Salad: 
3 large heads romaine lettuce
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese(see note)
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter or earth balance
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cups sourdough bread cut into 1/2 cubes
2 cloves of garlic, minced

The Dressing:
1 extra large egg yolk at room temperature(see note)
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice(2-3 lemons)
1 cup mild olive oil
1/2 freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon anchovy paste(optional)

The Deal: 
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until soft.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a large saute pan on medium low heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant about 1 minutes. Add bread cubes and mix into the butter oil mixture. Heat bread, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, and slightly crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
cooking croutons, yum!
4. Wash the lettuce leaves and spin dry in a salad spinner(see note). Once dry cut the lettuce crosswise into 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them in a large mixing bowl.

5. Once your tomatoes and croutons are ready, make your dressing. Place the egg yolk, mustard, garlic, worcestershire, lemon juice, anchovy paste(if using), salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor with a steel blade. Process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until thick. Then add 1/2 cup of parmesan and pulse 3-5 times, until just blended.

6. Toss your lettuce with the dressing, then add your tomatoes and croutons and toss again, just until all ingredients are lightly coated. Add parmesan at the end and put any leftover parmesan on the table for people to add onto their salad.

ENJOY a delicious homemade Caesar salad! Hail Caesar....Salad!

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