Caesar Salad with Spicy Croutons

In my opinion, there is rarely a time when a well-made Caesar salad is not welcome in my belly. It is so satisfying! And yeah, sure–I get that it has all those 90’s vibes and might even be considered outdated and outshined by a variety of new up-and-comers: shaved Brussel sprout salad, the resurgence of the Mad Men-era Blue Cheese Wedge or even an exotic mixed-green salad with all sorts of edible flowers and fancy things. Whatever. I will always have a soft spot for this Caesar that I’ve been making for decades now. A good quality mayonnaise takes the place of the traditional olive oil and raw eggs, with just a touch of anchovy paste for that all-important umami. Definitely take the time to make your own croutons and choose the darkest, leafiest romaine you can find! (Unless, of course, you’re a hearts of romaine fan, then adjust accordingly.)

DRESSING:

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use Best Foods, or Hellman’s if you’re east of the Mississippi)

2 TB. red wine vinegar

2 cloves fresh garlic

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. anchovy paste (find it in most groceries near the canned tuna)

1/4 tsp. coarse black pepper, plus more to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until thoroughly combined. (Immersion blender would also work, as would just whisking it really well in a jar or bowl.) Give it taste and adjust accordingly. I typically make this at least a few hours before I’m planning on serving and let it sit in the fridge to allow the ingredients to marry. This recipe makes enough for one enormous salad or several smaller ones. Pour any leftover dressing in a jar with a tight lid. It keeps well in the fridge for at least a week–just give the jar a few good vigorous shakes and it’s ready.

SPICY CROUTONS

2-3 cups cubed or torn rustic bread (fluffy French bread doesn’t work too well here, so look for something with a bit of chew and crust, even sourdough if that’s your jam)

1-2 cloves fresh garlic

2 TB. good quality olive oil

1.5 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread in large mixing bowl. Combine olive oil, garlic, Cajun seasoning and salt in a microwaveable dish. Heat the oil mixture in the microwave long enough to get slightly warm–it won’t take long. (I microwave mine for about thirty seconds.) Take the oil out, give it a stir and pour it over the bread cubes and toss well. Turn bread out onto a large baking sheet and bake until slightly golden and crisped, turning once, about 15 minutes.

SALAD

Romaine lettuce, washed and torn

1/4-1/2 cup good quality shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (depending on the size of your salad)

Throw the romaine and the cheese in a large salad bowl. Drizzle dressing over the greens–not too much at once–give it toss until the lettuce is lightly coated, but not saturated with dressing. Add more if necessary. Add in the croutons, give it another toss and serve immediately.

I adore this salad so much that during quarantine, I’ve been keeping a jar of the dressing and a bag of the croutons prepared and ready to go at a minute’s notice. Add grilled chicken, steak or salmon for a quick and healthy meal.

 

 

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