Sunday, February 12, 2012

Caesar Salad

         A few years back when my cooking skills could be given 10 points (out of possible 100) the centerpiece of my culinary repertoire was Caesar Salad. Indeed, it’s difficult to screw up such a dish: just throw everything in a bowl, pour a dressing over and toss. Needless to say, I used plain mayonnaise with the addition of grated parmesan for it. Later on, however, as my palate developed, I started to opt for more elaborate dressings and pretty soon I realized that for me this salad is actually all about that special dressing, with an anchovy zing. I know what you’re gonna say now: “But there were no anchovies in the original recipe of Chef Cardini!’ True. But I for one strongly associate Caesar with that “fish kick” so even when I buy a ready made dressing, I choose the one with anchovies in it and even if I make a low-fat, yoghurt-based dressing at home, I put some finely chopped anchovies in it as well.

            As I said, I cooked this salad for the first time pretty long ago. And since for me, with my poor kitchen experience, it was easier to make French toasts rather than to toast bread in the oven (I felt that I have more control over the process in the open pan rather than in the closed oven) I topped the salad with egg-and-milk soaked slices of bread, soft inside and crunchy on the outside. My husband loved it so much that even when I tried one day to serve the Caesar Salad with the authentic croutons, he asked for his French toast instead! So it became some sort of a signature mark of my home-made Caesar Salad!


200 gm lettuce, torn
200 gm cherry tomatoes, halved
2 small chicken breasts, poached and shredded
2 tbsp parmesan, grated

2 eggs
2 tbsp parmesan, grated
1 tbsp anchovies, finely chopped
1 tsp capers, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

French toast
4 slices of bread, crust removed
1 egg
¼ cup milk
2 tbsp olive oil

  1. In a bowl, combine lettuce, cherry tomatoes and chicken.
  2. For dressing, mix anchovies with parmesan, capers, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard and black pepper. Coddle eggs by placing them into boiling water for 1 minute. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk together with the prepared mixture. Add olive oil in a thin but steady stream, whisking till it emulsifies.
  3. For French toast, mix eggs with milk and soak the pieces of bread, cut into triangles, for 5 to 10 minutes in it. Heat oil in a pan and fry the bread on both sides till golden in colour.
  4. To serve, pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Divide between two plates, top with hot French toast and sprinkle with parmesan.

1. The original recipe calls for romaine or cos lettuce. However, you can take any other varieties of salad – just pick the freshest ones in the market!
2. You can use salmon or prawns instead of chicken. For vegetarian version exclude it from the dish, together with anchovies from the dressing; optionally, substitute it with something else (once I was at a restaurant where they served Caesar Salad with prunes!)

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