Though a Caesar salad is a great choice any time, I enjoy making it as a one-dish winter meal. There is something so satisfying in the texture of the fresh romaine lettuce, the crunch of croutons, and the thick flavorful dressing; it just seems that this salad is the perfect pop of flavor for taste buds grown tired of heavy bland offerings.
The recipe, from good friends, Susan and Larry Sharpe, appears in my “Missouri to Maui” cookbook and it is simple to prepare with just six ingredients. I do have a few tips for preparing this salad: prep your lettuce early on so there is time to rinse and dry it thoroughly. If you don’t dry the lettuce sufficiently you will find that the dressing breaks down, diluted by any moisture still on the lettuce so don’t skip or rush the lettuce prep. I find it helpful to rinse the lettuce then layer it between large towels to dry. Once dry, I use my kitchen shears to chop it into coarse pieces. Another tip: mince the garlic early and use your fingers or a wooden spoon to smash the garlic around the sides of a wooden salad bowl before making the remainder of the dressing. Using a wooden bowl is a must here as the texture of the wood allows the smashed garlic to permeate the salad when tossed.
The dressing will be thick; if you have smashed the garlic in the serving bowl first, it consists of just of the parmesan (grated by hand from a large block, no substituting!), the freshly squeezed lemon juice, and the olive oil. It is the thickness of the dressing, well mixed into every bit and morsel of the salad that provides the distinctive flavor of a Caesar salad.
One note on croutons. You certainly can buy them packaged if you have a favorite brand, but nothing is as simple as preparing your own. I sometimes make them on the stove, in a skillet, using butter and seasonings, or, as i did last night, preparing them in the oven on a baking sheet after tossing them in olive oil and seasonings. The cooking blog, The Pioneer Woman, has quick recipes for each method. It’s always a good idea to freeze any left over partial loaves of French bread for making your own croutons because they can be used in so many ways. Last night all I found in the freezer was a package of sliced wheat bread squares so that is what I used and they were delicious though too flat for my liking. Croutons are easy to make, remember that!
So, just six ingredients and a little foresight about prepping, and you will soon enough have a salad to satisfy your every taste bud. Why not prepare it on the next cold night and jazz up your table? This dish is great with a bowl of soup or a meat dish such as a steak or venison, or, as it was very much enjoyed last night, just on its own, unaccompanied. After all, the bowl is chock full of salad AND bread AND cheese, PLUS extra flavor. You really don’t need anything more. Enjoy mightily!
Sharpe Family Caesar Salad
1 large package Romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped (at least 4 stalks)
Prepared plain croutons or homemade croutons
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Directions Coarsely chop romaine lettuce and place in serving bowl; add crotons. Prepare the dressing, in deep mixing bowl, by using the back of a wooden spoon to smash garlic cloves against the sides of the bowl. Add oil and lemon juice, whisk briefly. Add Parmesan and whisk well; mixture will be thick. Do not make the dressing too early, just before serving is best. Add dressing to lettuce and croutons, folding thoroughly, coating well. Serve immediately.