Caesar Salad Dressing a la Paula

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The original Caesar Salad was believed to have been created by Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant, living in Mexico in the 1920s. The original recipe, according to his daughter included olive oil, garlic, a touch of vinegar, anchovies, coddled egg and cheese. Over the years there have been many variations, but this is mine. First of all, I do not use coddled eggs. A coddled egg is one that has been dunked into boiling water for just 1 minute. It is barely cooked, and to me is slimy and oozy. I don’t like it. Nor do I like hard boiled egg in Caesar salad. My recipe is easy, delicious, garlic-y and tart, and travels and keeps well. I use a blender to make it quickly and to emulsify the oil.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 strands, 6″ long each, of anchovy paste, or 1/2 can of anchovies, drained of oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons – you can use additional lemons or bottled lemon juice, though fresh is best, if you need to increase the amount of dressing. This will give you about 1/3 C of lemon juice. If you’re making it for a crowd, use 1/2 C lemon juice
  • However much lemon juice you use, you need 2 times that in extra light olive oil. I don’t like virgin olive oil for this dressing. It has too distinctive a flavor, and, if you refrigerate the left over dressing, it becomes a brick, so please stick to the lighter oils. For 1/3 C lemon juice (see above) you’ll need about 2/3 C oil, and if you use 1/2 C lemon juice, increase the oil to 1 C.
  • 2 splashes of worcestershire sauce, about 1/2 to 3/4 tsp.
  • 3 to 4 heaping tablespoons of grated romano or parmesan cheese. You can also use a little extra shredded on top for looks. (Again, if you increase the lemon juice and oil, add a little more cheese.
  • Black pepper to taste (or you can omit and let people add fresh ground pepper themselves)  NO SALT – both the anchovies and cheese provide plenty of salt.
  • Croutons, preferably herb or garlic

In the jar of your blender, put the cloves of garlic, peeled. Garlic is a distinct flavor in Caesar dressing. Squeeze the lemons either through a small strainer, kitchen towel or your hands, but do not get the seeds into the dressing if possible. They will grind up, but will make it bitter. Add the anchovy paste, and on a low speed, blend everything. It will turn a light brown as the garlic and anchovy paste mix with the lemon juice. Turn the speed up a little to make sure the garlic is finely chopped.

Now, with the blender lid on, but the center piece removed, turn the blender on medium and slowly but steadily, pour the oil through the hole. As it gets blended into the lemon juice mixture, you will see the dressing lighted up in color and thicken to a creamy consistency. Stop the blender, add the cheese, put the lid back on with the hole covered now, and blend again.

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For the lettuce, I like romaine hearts, but a full head of romaine works just fine. Because romaine is grown in sandy soil, you will want to wash the leaves well, separating them as you run them under water. I then take the whole head, lay it on it’s side and cut from the heart end through to the open leaves. I do this 2 or 3 times on different sides, then cut 1″ wide strips, straight across the whole head. I know there is an argument about whether you should cut or tear lettuce; however, it is my opinion,  either is fine if you’re going to eat it that day. I use a glass salad bowl and line it with a cotton tea towel. I then put the cut and still damp lettuce into the tea towel in the bowl. I fold the corners over and turn the whole thing upside down and refrigerate the lettuce. This will crisp up the lettuce and remove the excess moisture in about a 1/2 hour. As it crisps it will expand a little so don’t overfill your bowl initially or it will be very difficult to toss with the salad dressing.

When I’m ready to serve the salad, I take the bowl out of the fridge and put the lettuce directly into the bowl by removing the towel. I add the croutons prior to adding the dressing, so they get some of the dressing as well. I add the dressing in stages. I like the lettuce lightly coated and not drowning in the dressing. You can always add; removing too much dressing is a lot more difficult.  You can offer your guests additional anchovies for the top of their salads if you’d like.

NOTE: One addition that is common in restaurants and which I totally dislike, is dijon mustard, or mustard of any kind for that matter. The predominant flavors in Caesar Salad Dressing should be garlic and lemon. Please do not add mustard.

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